A Kelowna doctor is embarking on a research project to investigate the use of stem cells to relieve osteoarthritis joint pain.
Dr. Grant Pagdin has been given Health Canada approval to launch the research initiative, the first of its kind in Canada, comprised of 240 patients, each who will have to pay $5,900 to be included in the project.
The research project was approved to start in March but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pagdin will divide the 240 into three groups of 80, each gives three different variations of blood platelets combined with their bone marrow and body fat stem cells injected into areas of pain.
As an orthopedic treatment specialist, Pagdin says the injection areas will be for osteoarthritis issues in joints limited to shoulders, knees, wrists, elbows, hips and ankles.
Pagdin said the research will be watched by his colleagues across Canada, as the mystery behind stem cells as a cure for our physical ills continues to be better understood.
He said back in the ’90s, stem cells were promoted as a magical cure for pain relief and many other incurable ailments such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease, but Pagdin says today these cells are not the panacea originally thought.
“They don’t seem to quite work that way. What these stem cells do when injected into the body is to signal molecules that amplify and optimize internal health recovery efforts,” he said.
“What we need to better understand is how these molecules generate the repair, how these specific cells talk to one another.
“Some of the research results already have shown early promise but there are still a lot of unanswered questions and details to iron out. We are still beginning a new frontier of medicine and type of science that could transform ways of how we practice medical care.”
Pagdin is reaching out across Canada for project participants, seeing the first potential project recruit last Friday morning from Coquitlam.
Men and women are eligible, between the ages of 19 and 79. Medical issues such as active cancer, autoimmune issues or recent injections of cortisone or hydraulic acid, or severe end stages of osteoarthritis would be disqualifying.
Check the Pagdin Health website pagdinhealth.com for more information about the research criteria.
Pagdin said participation will involve three visits to his clinic over two years. There is no placebo element to this stage of research, so everyone will receive a stem cell injection, taken from the pelvis or ‘love handle’ area where there is excess fat.
The procedure requires localized freezing but he says it has no side effects and the discomfort is minimal.
“We only need to harvest one ounce of stem cell. And no, this procedure does not have a side effect of weight loss. It is not liposuction,” he said.
Pagdin said storm cell research attracted a negative reaction, particularly in the U.S because test stem cells were removed from fetus fertilized egg tissues, which conservative groups felt was a form of abortion.
“There were huge ethical objections to that sort of approach so a stop was put to that. The way around it was to harvest cells from an adult patient and put them back in the same person. You are literally using your own body tissues to treat another part of your body,” he said.
Pagdin said anecdotal research to date indicates about a 75 per cent dramatic improvement in bodily function when used for chronic pain – measured in such ways sleeping better, using the stairs, getting in and out of a vehicle.
“We are not sure of all the factors yet while some people respond to stem cell treatments and some don’t. Those who exercise who lead active lives tend to see better results than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle,” he said.
Successful stem cell testing has shown improvement in the integrity of a pain-disabled joint.
“But we are not talking about a permanent solution here. It is not going to make the joint brand new or perfect perhaps when you were 20,” he noted.
“It just allows you to get more mileage out of that particular joint than you otherwise would get. But it can last for several years.”