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New clinical trial focuses on stem cells healing shoulder injuries

Doctors are investigating if stem cells taken from a person’s own fat can help heal shoulder injuries.

Stem cells are said to help repair or re-generate cells.

But can adult stem cells taken from a person’s own fat help heal shoulder injuries?

It’s the focus of a new clinical trial happening across the country.
But a South Jersey doctor has been doing the procedure. He says with good results for several years.

Fifty-eight-year-old Bob Lewis has always played sports. Unfortunately its lead to some injuries, most recently his right shoulder.

“I still have function, but there’s pain here and there’s a clicking,” Lewis said.

An MRI showed two rotator cuff tears.

Instead of surgery, Lewis went to Dr. Scott Greenberg from the Magaziner Center for Wellness to try a stem cell procedure.

After numbing the area, Dr. Greenberg sucks out fat from Lewis’ backside.

In the lab, the fat is slowly filtered.

Adult stem cells are separated.

Then along with part of Lewis’ own blood, called platelet rich plasma, or P-R-P. His stem cells are injected into the area causing pain in his shoulder.

“They basically act as the conductor, act as the foreman of construction and basically bring everything into a damaged area and make that damaged area heal naturally,” said Dr. Greenberg.

He says patients typically feel better in three to six months.

The procedure is not approved by the FDA, but clinical trials are underway in North and South Dakota.

Dr. Greenberg’s patients pay out of pocket, about $5,000 dollars per area.

Sixty-six-year-old Joyce Mitchell had the procedure six months ago for painful arthritis.

Just three weeks after her stem cells were injected, she was back in the pool at Meridian Fitness.

“I swim three to four days a week, I do 70 lanes of the pool which they tell me is a mile. I felt wonderful, it’s like my life came back to me,” Mitchell said.

But not all experts are convinced.

“I think this technology is promising. The problem is there is very little scientific data,” Dr. Arthur Bartolozzi.

Dr. Bartolozzi is an orthopedic surgeon at 3-B Orthopedics. He says the study has the potential to evaluate if this procedure works.

He tells patients now, it’s experimental and costly. But other treatments have been proven.

“We know that physical therapy helps and certain exercises and strengthening, sometimes a corticosteroid injection,” Dr. Bartolozzi said.

Dr. Greenberg says he hasn’t seen any adverse effects from the stem cell procedure. And the majority of patients feel better.

Dr. Greenberg agrees having evidence from a scientific trial would be helpful. And it could open the door for more patients if it’s proven and insurance companies cover the cost.

Mister Lewis is five weeks out. He says he still feels a little stiffness, but no pain and his shoulder is getting stronger.