Feb 10, 2015Giving It A Shot
The bone marrow aspirate injection procedure undergone by the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard last Wednesday has been described as “experimental” by doctors familiar with the procedure. The Rockets’ former team physician, however, feels the science behind the procedure is sound.
According to an article in the Houston Chronicle:
- The procedure is similar to platelet-rich plasma treatment, with the difference being the aspirate injection uses stem cells from Howard’s own bone marrow.
- “It’s like injecting a teenager’s healing ability,” Dr. Walter Lowe, who performed the procedure, told the Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s going to regenerate cartilage…It will calm his joint down, help with the pain he’s having.”
- The procedure is more likely to help Howard since he has never had cartilage removed.
But despite the potential benefits, Dr. Matt Hammit, an orthopedic surgeon in The Woodlands who has performed the procedure, told the Chronicle that there’s much doctors don’t know about the procedure:
“The idea is if you take stem cells from the bone marrow, some of those cells regenerate cartilage,” Hammit said. “You then inject them in the area where the cartilage is deficient with the hopes that it will regrow or regenerate damaged cartilage. Whether that would work is another thing altogether. I’d say it’s basically experimental. There’s not a lot of hard evidence it works. Whatever benefit it gives seems to be in the short term rather than the long term. It is very dependent on the size of the cartilage injury.”
Dr. Bruce Moseley, a former Rockets’ team physician who has also performed the procedure, said that while there are still some unknowns about it, the theory is grounded in science:
“There is some good, basic, laboratory science to show that the cells that come out of the marrow, many of which are stem cells, can differentiate into different types of cells that … form cartilage,” he told the Chronicle. “The potential is there to use these cells from the bone marrow to produce new, healthy cartilage. How effective that is, how long it lasts, nobody knows at this point.”