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Regenerative medicine is a new field of medicine in which orthopedic surgeons aim to move away from replacement and toward joint preservation. Using orthobiologics, they plan provide the body with the cells, materials, and stimulation it needs to heal without you ever going under the knife.

According to the report on, the promise of regenerative medicine in orthopedics is a future where a joint replacement can be delayed for as long as possible, perhaps offering a solution to long transplant waiting lists for other disciplines of medicine. The main debate in orthobiologics is whether the body of evidence currently supports incorporating regenerative medicine techniques into national guidelines and conventional treatment strategies.

Case studies and anecdotal evidence often support orthobiologics (biological substances orthopedics surgeons can use to help the body heal) as a treatment option. However, the size and consistency of available studies are still a problem. There is plenty of evidence to support regenerative medicine techniques in specific circumstances such as osteoarthritis and tendinopathy. Still, a broader evidence base will be required before these treatments are accepted as standard practice in wider orthopedic circles.

The idea behind regenerative medicine isn’t new. More recently, regenerative medicine has focused on the implantation of cells to initiate healing in musculoskeletal structures, with the introduction of modern interventions such as platelet-rich plasma, mesenchymal stem cells, and injections of biomaterials that can induce a healing response.

Modern orthopedic regenerative medicine treatments still struggle to find a place within standard practice and large healthcare organizations, owing to the debate over whether the evidence base currently supports its use. Therapies such as platelet-rich plasma and adipose (fat cell) derived stem cell injections often require patients to pay out of pocket as insurance companies refuse to cover these forms of treatment.

There is, however, a growing number of practitioners who use orthobiologics as part of their standard practice. With a growing evidence base, these practitioners have started to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis and tendinopathy in this way, offering treatments including injection of:

– – Platelet-rich plasma – blood plasma with a high concentration of platelets taken from the patient’s blood.
– – Mesenchymal stem cells – stem cells sourced from fat tissue, bone marrow, and pregnancy-related sources such as the umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, and the placenta.
– – Biomaterials – biological substances such as autologous chondrocytes (cells taken from the patient which produce cartilage), bovine collagen, bone matrix, and proteins.

These orthobiologics are generally considered conservative treatments, meaning they are used as a less invasive alternative to surgery or as an additional option when other treatments have failed.

The popularity of orthobiologics is increasing, in no small part due to media coverage of famous athletes undergoing these procedures – Tiger Woods, Steph Curry, and Raphael Nadal, to name just a few. This may have added to the controversy surrounding regenerative medicine. In these circumstances, therapies were used to treat injuries and aid post-surgical healing – an area with less research backing.

Regenerative medicine holds the promise of delaying and possibly reducing surgical intervention in patients with degenerative joint conditions and musculoskeletal injuries. In the near future, we may see orthobiologics used as a middle-ground for conditions like arthritis, sitting somewhere between conservative treatment (such as steroid injection) and surgery.

In the far future, we may even see a complete overhaul of how we replace joints – moving away from metal and ceramic joint replacements towards biological replacement and regeneration. We can also expect a move towards orthobiologic injection as a preventative measure for degenerative joint conditions.