Can Stem Cells Regenerate Cartilage?

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About the Knee

The knee is the joint where the bones of the upper leg meet the bones of the lower leg, allowing hinge-like movement while providing stability and strength to support the weight of the body. Flexibility, strength, and stability are needed for standing and for motions like walking, running, crouching, jumping, and turning.

Several kinds of supporting and moving parts, including bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, help the knees do their job. Each of these structures is subject to disease and injury.

When a knee problem affects your ability to do things, it can have a big impact on your life. Knee problems can interfere with many things, from participation in sports to simply getting up from a chair and walking.

McKenna treatment protocols combine a patient’s own bone marrow stem cells with amniotic membrane tissue to treat bone, muscle, tendon, ligament and cartilage damage in the knee. The amniotic we use is composed of collagens and other structural proteins, which provide a biologic matrix that supports angiogenesis, tissue growth and new collagen production during tissue regeneration and repair.



McKenna Orthopedics Stem Cell Therapy Patients in Their Own Words

Stem Cells for Knee Injuries

I’m 63 and I’m out chasing rainbows, and hitting the beaches, and hitting the mountains
— Teresa Hamrick, RN

Stem Cell Therapy for ACL Repair

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I had major improvement in 1 months and I had complete recovery in 6 weeks.
— Jennifer Ziegler

Stem Cell Therapy for Knee Repair

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“I was able to go bowling again 30 days after surgery.”
— Chad


Will a stem cell injection fix my knee?

This is a question that everyone who is looking at stem cell therapy to avoid knee surgery asks. The answer is, “It depends.” Stem cell injections are not a panacea that will fix every knee injury regardless of type and severity.

For example, a patient might have loose bodies like cartilage or bone fragments inside their knee joint, which can cause painful inflammation, degeneration of the joint and “catching” of the knee. These loose bodies must be surgically removed. Stem cell injections are not going to make them go away. However, stem cells and other biologics like amniotic tissue product can be used to promote faster healing after loose bodies are removed with minimally invasive surgery.

As one can see in the picture to the left, these loose bodies can be quite large.

Treating this kind of condition with stem cells alone might alleviate some of the inflammation temporarily but since the underlying problem hasn’t been addressed, the inflammation will return, the catching isn’t going to stop and the degeneration will continue.

A view inside a patient’s knee makes it easy to see how fragments inside the joint can make it painful and difficult to bend. Constant grinding causes discomfort and gradual degeneration of the knee joint over time.

The bottom line is that injecting stem cells without removing large loose bodies is a waste of stem cells, time and money. One should rely on the expertise of a orthopedic surgeon with experience in regenerative medicine to determine when BMAC and amniotic tissue product injections are the right choice and when when minimally invasive surgery augmented with stem cells and amniotic tissue product is a better option.

What makes stem cell therapy at McKenna Orthopedics different?

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  • Precision Fluoroscopic C-Arm Guidance for bone marrow harvesting and treatment injections
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  • Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate (BMAC) with Vertical Axis Centrifuge 
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  • Amniotic Tissue Product Developed By Dr. McKenna
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At McKenna Orthopedics, we augment BMAC with a pliable tissue allograft (transplant) developed by Dr. Riordan. It is derived from human placental amnion, which functions as a biologic structural matrix to facilitate and enhance tissue healing and repair. It contains 108 different growth factors including more than 10 times the amount of WNT-4 and and more than 60 times the amount of prostaglandin as competing products.

Prostaglandin inhibits inflammation, which occurs after injury and marks the beginning of the healing process. The faster we can tame this inflammation, the sooner the body can move on to the next phase of healing, regeneration.

WNT4 is arguably the single most important molecule required for wound healing.


Common knee conditions treated at McKenna Orthopedics & Biologics:

Below are common knee conditions we treat at McKenna Orthopedics. If your knee condition is not listed, please contact us to see if you are a candidate.

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  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Sprain/Tear

  • Baker’s Cyst

  • Bursitis

  • Chondromalacia

  • Enthesopathy

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome

  • Knee Replacement

  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain/Tear

  • Medial Plica Syndrome

  • Meniscus Injury

  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease

  • Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease

  • Patellar Tendonitis/Tendinosis

  • Patellofemoral Syndrome

  • Pes Anserine Bursitis

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Sprain/Tear

  • Quadriceps Strain/Tear

  • Runner’s Knee

  • Tendonitis or Tendinopathy