This Monday, as I was sitting in our weekly Regenexx research meeting, I snapped the pictures above. Why? It’s hard for patients and physicians to understand everything that goes into what we do at Regenexx. They don’t get to see the fantastic lab and clinical facilities, meet the researchers on our team, or sit in on our weekly gatherings. So I thought this morning I’d give you a glimpse into my research Monday.
While there are a few bright spots of physicians and device companies performing research, most doctors using regenerative medicine in orthopedics are a hot mess. They don’t know what they don’t know, so they believe any orthopedic sales rep pitching the latest stem cell used car or new model. There is no consumer reports as most of the universities at the clinical level are as much businesses as they are research centers. In fact, they often routinely mix business with research, taking mega-dollars from private industry.
Many physicians, device companies, and sales reps aren’t quite sure what to make of us. Are we a device company making widgets? Are we a medical network? Are we competition?
Regenexx is an exclusive medical network of physicians who practice high-level interventional orthopedics using the latest regenerative-medicine solutions. Meaning, you can’t just call us up and ask to join. Either you have the skills needed to practice at our level out of the box (extremely rare) or have the basic skills to be educated to practice at this level.
If the Regenexx Network physicians are the tires that hit the road, the research-and-development team is the engine. These dedicated scientists and lab processors allow us to continually innovate and offer our network the latest and greatest and most flexible solutions. That last part about flexibility is critical.
If the Network represents the rubber on the road and the research team is the engine, then the drivetrain and axles are the flexible lab platform that we deploy at every site. You see, most physicians use bedside machines that only do one thing. Basically, they only have the ability to offer one type of treatment in one format because that’s what their automated bedside machine produces. So, for example, they must take 60 ml of bone marrow and process it to get 10 ml of stem cell concentrate because that’s how the kit that fits into the machine works. But what if they only needed to get all or most of those stem cells into 1 ml of concentrate to inject a low-back disc? Then not only is the other 9 ml wasted, but the 1 ml that is injected is one-tenth the concentration it could be. Or what if they need 5 ml of a lower-concentrated platelet rich plasma (PRP) and 2 ml of a higher-concentrated version along with 2 ml of a cytokine-rich serum? Most physicians just can’t do that because that’s not what their inflexible kits and machines allow. They are limited in what they can offer and as such try to fit the square peg of your problem into the round hole of their solution.
However, Regenexx doctors can offer any combination and permutation of regenerative-medicine solutions needed. Everything from that low concentration of PRP to the high concentration in any volume they need. In addition, our doctors would be able to pack most of the stem cells from a 60 ml bone marrow aspirate into that 1 ml. Need a cytokine-rich serum that may block cartilage breakdown? No problem. How about micronized fat? Got you covered. This is because of the flexible lab platform. In addition, the Regenexx research team is always hard at work expanding or improving what it can offer. So the flexible lab platform can offer the latest and greatest regen-med solutions just as they are just showing clinical promise.
Getting back to the R-and-D meeting—in the picture above, one of our scientists (Dustin Berger) is presenting his findings on a method to further improve our stem-cell-rich bone marrow concentrate. The data he showed us demonstrated that while the new method was better in some respects, it may sacrifice other parameters we value. Hence, he needed to test more samples to fully vet the process to see if it’s really better than what we’re already doing.
At the same meeting, Dustin also presented his final tenocyte PRP concentration data before writing up that research paper. This data is key as it shows clearly that other recently published research showing that highly concentrated PRP hurt tendon cells wasn’t accurate. In fact, we found older tendon cells needed higher concentrations than most bedside machines can produce. So this is research that will not only benefit our network physicians, but every physician who uses PRP in tendons.
I also watched a great presentation from our computer-science division about new ways they have streamlined registry data collection at the licensed Grand Cayman site. We also discussed the status of several ongoing randomized controlled trials. Finally, we got an update on the completion of phase 1 of our knee microenvironment study that uses machine learning to predict responses to same-day stem cell treatments for knee arthritis.
Man, do we piss off some of those who have entrenched regenerative-medicine interests in devices and products. While there are a few in industry who appreciate the science behind what we do, most consider us competition. This is bizarre because we’re technology agnostic. Meaning we strive to give our network doctors the best of what’s out there. Sometimes that means that we have to develop our own processes because we can do better that what’s on the market. Sometimes we’ll do research to allow our doctors to place what’s out there in context. For example, these past few weeks we’ve been testing a $700 trocar for drawing bone marrow. Is it any better? We’ve set out to answer that question because if it really can get five times as many stem cells, we need to know that and be using it. However, if it’s a bust, we need to know that too. So we’re also technology critical, meaning that we will perform our own in-house research on whether something works.
The upshot? Regenexx is technology agnostic and critical all at the same time. I couldn’t care less if there’s a new doohickey that can make a new regen-med magic pixie dust. If it’s real, our doctors will offer it and our research team will help place it in its proper position in the regen-med pantheon. If it’s hype, we’ll find that out as well. The Regenexx research team is the engine that makes all of that happen!
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…