Mya Care Blogger 18 Jan 2024

Article Updated 18 January 2024

According to the latest data, nearly half of all people develop some form of knee osteoarthritis over the course of their lives. Knee pain can be debilitating and affect day-to-day living. Finding relief can also be a challenge, and for some people, mainstay treatment options, such as medication, physical therapy, and surgery, may not always provide the desired results.

That is where knee stem cell therapy comes in. In recent years, research into stem cell therapy has ramped up alongside the demand for non-invasive surgery alternatives. Knee stem cell therapy is currently offered in over 600 clinics in the US alone [1].

While results have been very promising, more research is still required to establish a standard stem cell protocol known to work as well as understand the limitations and drawbacks of therapy.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at what knee stem cell therapy is, what the benefits and side effects are, the costs involved, and how effective it is as a treatment option.

Stem Cells and Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cells are unspecialized cells with the potential to transform into any other cell type within the body. Almost all body tissues hold a reserve of stem cells that help the body repair itself and replenish lost cells after injury or during periods of growth.

As one ages, viable stem cell reserves diminish, making it more difficult for the body to repair itself. This is one of the main reasons that conditions like osteoarthritis are more likely to develop later in life. However, younger individuals may also have trouble with stem cell tissue repair after traumatic injuries or if they are struggling with chronic disease.

Stem cell therapy is a medical procedure that uses stem cells to promote healing and repair damaged tissue. In theory, stem cells injected into an area requiring regeneration turn into cells that need to be replaced, allowing for new healthy tissue to form.

There are three main types of stem cell therapies currently available:

  • Autologous stem cell therapy: Stem cells are derived from the patient's own body. This therapy is ideal due to minimal processing and a lower chance of side effects.
  • Allogeneic stem cell therapy: Stem cells are derived from a donor and prepared prior to injection. This therapy is an alternative for patients who don’t have enough viable stem cells, yet it poses a risk of rejection.
  • Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapy: This involves the genetic reprogramming of adult cells, such as skin cells, to become pluripotent stem cells that can then be used in regeneration. Techniques for iPSC are still being perfected.

The most common types of stem cells used are bone marrow stem cells and adipose tissue (fat) stem cells, derived from either the patient or a donor. Another abundant source of stem cells that is frequently utilized in regenerative medicine is umbilical cord blood.

Knee Stem Cell Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee stem cell therapy involves the injection of stem cells (derived from the patients’ bone marrow, blood, or fat) into their knees to treat knee osteoarthritis. It is still currently being investigated as an alternative treatment to knee surgery in the hopes that fewer people with arthritis have to trade their knees for prosthetics.

Osteoarthritis in the knee wears away the cartilage, resulting in knee pain, friction, and even torn tendons, ligaments, or fractures. Stem cell therapy for arthritis may be able to minimize this damage, reduce inflammation, and prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, supposedly growing back cartilage, bones, and muscle tissue.

 Scientists are still not entirely sure how this treatment works [2], even though some trials have produced positive results. More research is required to test its safety and efficacy.

Benefits of Knee Stem Cell Therapy

Preclinical trials show very promising results for knee stem cell therapy. Stem cells can promote cartilage growth, reduce knee pain severity, and improve many aspects of arthritis with little to no adverse effects.

According to the latest research, there are several benefits to choosing stem cell regenerative therapy over traditional treatments:

  • Non-surgical: Unlike surgery, knee stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require incisions or general anesthesia.
  • Natural regeneration: The use of the patient's own stem cells promotes natural healing and regeneration of damaged tissue. After 2 years, there is a chance of full recovery in moderate cases of knee osteoarthritis.
  • Lowers Inflammation: Inflammation is known to be one of the biggest contributors to the progression of osteoarthritis. Stem cells have the ability to drastically lower inflammation through secreting anti-inflammatory compounds and growth factors[5].
  • Swift pain relief: Most patients experience significant knee pain relief within the first 6 months of receiving stem cell therapy. This is similar to the benefits of steroid injections. However stem cell therapy promotes long-term cartilage regeneration in the knee joint as well.
  • Faster recovery: Recovery time is typically shorter compared to surgery, and patients can resume their normal activities sooner.
  • Long-lasting results: Long-lasting effects can be obtained from stem cells since they have the capacity to regenerate and mend tissue for years after the surgery.

What Other Conditions Can Knee Stem Cell Therapy Treat?

Knee stem cell therapy can be used to treat a variety of knee conditions other than knee osteoarthritis, including:

Risks of Knee Stem Cell Therapy and Side Effects

People have reported that after receiving stem cell injections, they feel stiff in their knees[3]. Sometimes temporary swelling, fevers, and mild pain or discomfort at the injection site are also experienced. However, studies indicate that the side effects are minimal.

Other risks and potential side effects associated with knee stem cell therapy include:

  • Infection at the injection site
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction

While these risks are low and therapy is generally considered safe, no stem cell therapies have been approved for use or regulated by official health authorities such as the FDA or the European Commission.

The FDA has expressly warned people against stem cell therapies that have yet to be tested fully and approved. Research has shown that stem cell therapy performed on other parts of the body can actually pose very serious risks. For example, those who received eye stem cell therapy to remove cataracts actually became clinically blind. The FDA has also raised some concerns about stem cell therapy as, in some cases, it can cause tumor growth [4].

Doctors and scientists appear to agree that it is relatively safe when performed on the knee. However, more research needs to be conducted before it can be approved as a safe treatment by the FDA and other medical authorities.

It is important to discuss any potential risks of stem cell therapy with your doctor before undergoing any stem cell procedure.

The Cost of Knee Stem Cell Therapy

The cost of knee stem cell therapy can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition, the number of injections needed, and the location of the clinic. On average, the cost can range from $3,000 to $10,000 per treatment.

It is important to note that knee stem cell therapy is not typically covered by insurance, as it is still considered an experimental treatment. Some health centers might provide financial assistance to make the therapy more accessible.

Does Knee Stem Cell Therapy Really Work?

The truthful answer to this question is that knee stem cell therapy is still being investigated, so nobody can say for sure that it works.

It is crucial to note that claims made by clinics offering the therapy can be misleading. In one survey of 317 clinics, only 65 of the 317 clinics responded. The cost of therapy averaged $5000, their self-proclaimed success rates averaged 70-100%, and none of them supplied proof. [9]

Actual clinical trials on willing participants are only conducted on small groups of patients, roughly 20-30 people at a time. This amounts to results acquired from testing therapy on several hundreds to thousands of people, which is not sufficient to draw a firm conclusion.

Current findings suggest the following about the efficacy of knee stem cell therapy:

  • Improvements are most noticeable during months 1-6 and after 2 years [6].
  • A study shows the benefits of stem cell therapy in the first year are not any different from standard steroid injections for knee osteoarthritis patients.
  • After 2 years of receiving stem cell therapy, up to 56% of patients show dramatic improvements, up to 20% show slight improvement, and 10% may fully recover. [7]
  • Results were shown to be best for autologous adipose-derived (from fat) stem cells and stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood.
  • Adverse effects are exceedingly rare and are more common in very severe cases. An average of 7-10% of patients with severe knee osteoarthritis experience a worsening of their symptoms after stem cell treatment and defer to knee replacement surgery.
  • Roughly 5% of patients may not receive any benefits from stem cell therapy.
  • Animal studies indicate that multiple injections spaced out over months or weeks appear more effective in the long run than a once-off treatment. [8] Frequency and dosage are yet to be determined in humans.


The bottom line is that for those with arthritis of the knee, stem cell injections could be an effective regenerative therapy capable of promoting full recovery after 2 years. It provides initial pain relief similar to traditional steroid injections yet promotes long-term cartilage regeneration that leads to a dramatic improvement in life quality for those patients. It is not effective for all people with osteoarthritis, and the longer one postpones or delays therapy, the less effective stem cell therapy is likely to be.

Knee stem cell therapy is a very promising avenue of treatment. However, further research is required before it can be approved as a safe and effective treatment for everyone suffering from this condition.

If you want to give it a try, make sure to opt for a healthcare provider that is working in conjunction with credible research institutions such as a university clinic or research center. If you are considering going abroad for knee stem cell treatment in India and Malaysia, please use the Mya Care free search engine.


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