Stem cells are unique in that they can turn into any other type of body tissue. For example, stem cells can become skin cells, liver cells, bone cells, or heart cells. This unique quality has led to abundant research in using stem cells to treat a variety of conditions, including degenerative diseases, heart and blood diseases, deafness, blindness, baldness, and even missing teeth.
Stem cells are produced naturally by the body. The body houses the cells until an injury or illness requires the cells to be dispatched to the affected area. When the stem cells reach the injured or diseased body part, they morph into whatever the body needs to heal — such as skin, bone, or soft tissue. However, this process doesn’t always go as planned, and in these cases, doctors can help the body turn stem cells into other needed tissues through a treatment called stem cell therapy.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
With stem cell therapy, doctors use stem cells derived from embryonic tissue to regenerate the area of the foot or ankle that has been injured or damaged by disease. The stem cells are placed into the injured site so that they can begin to morph into the types of cells needed in the area, such as skin tissue, bone tissue, cartilage tissue, tendon tissues, ligament tissues, etc.
This treatment is less invasive, less painful, and requires less recovery time than traditional surgeries used to treat conditions of the feet and ankles. Stem cell therapy can often prevent a patient from having to undergo extensive and painful surgery.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?
The stem cells, aided by platelets added to the affected site, begin to turn into the tissue the body needs to heal. In the case of foot or ankle injury or disease, the stem cells become cartilage and joint tissue to replace that lost by injury or illness. This allows the body to heal the affected area. Sometimes, stem cell therapy is combined with a therapy called PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy when tissues like ligaments are affected.
What Conditions Are Treated?
Stem cell therapy has proven remarkably effective at treating foot and ankle injuries, especially those that won’t heal or didn’t heal properly. This therapy can also treat degenerative bone diseases, including osteoarthritis and subtalar arthritis. It can improve ankle stability for patients with weak ankles, and treat tendonitis, torn or strained ligaments, tarsal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and Achilles tendonitis (a common injury experienced by runners).