Is regenerative medicine more or less effective as you age?

The age-old question in Regenerative Medicine and orthobiologics is: Does your age impact your regenerative procedure? For example, is a 30-year-old going to receive better results than a 60-year-old? 

Well, after years of tracking patients and reviewing the literature, there is no conclusive association between age and procedure success. 

However, many “bad actors” out there practicing outside of the bounds of Evidence Based Medicine, insist that there is a difference in the age of the product used in a regenerative procedure.

At Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics, we use autologous cells, or cells from the patient’s own bone marrow tissue. We extract the bone marrow tissue and process it in a lab to bone marrow concentrate cells (BMAC). These concentrated cells are living and full of the cytokines and grow factors that are instrumental in the regenerative properties of these procedures. So, if these cells were obtained from a 60-year-old patient, the camp that advocates for packaged regenerative products would claim these cells are old and weak.

The camp that advocates for the packaged products also claims that cells from placental or umbilical cords are from young tissue, therefore they are more powerful in their regenerative properties. Unfortunately, what this group fails to say is that these products are processed and packaged in a way that they have a shelf life, so there are no living cells in these products. These are vials of dead cells. Their value, absolutely, would be in creating an inflammatory cascade that does instigate tissue growth, however, that effect is more analogous to the effects of prolotherapy which is a dextrose solution that stimulates inflammation and a healing cascade. 

Even though the placental and umbilical products come from a “young” source, since the cells are dead, there is no comparison to the impact of living cells, even from an patient who is advanced in age. 

Registry Data & Published Research 

So, results and scientific evidence are what we rely on when demonstrating the success of a procedure, which also can include patient age. So, even though the packaged, dead cells of the placental and umbilical products will continue to be a thorn in the side of regenerative medicine due to false claims, we just will continue to focus on what we know we can do. What we can do is lean on the two means by which we can measure the success of a procedure. 

To procure unbiased data on the efficacy of regenerative medicine procedures using autologous cells (or the patient’s own blood/bone marrow and cells), the two major tools we measure results by are:

  • Registry Data
  • The Published Research

Registry Data

In Medicine, registry data is seen as a means of tracking outcomes across different disciplines. It is widely used in orthopedics for procedures like knee replacements or other surgical procedures, but registries are also seen in outcome tracking for cancer or trauma treatments. The purpose of a registry is to gather a body of evidence that spans a long period of time. At times, it is quite difficult to perform clinical trials in procedures ethically or logistically, even though that has served as the gold standard across medical research. 

So, registries serve a fantastic purpose in showing long-term outcomes data that has authentically-reported outcomes from patients on their perceived pain and function (in the case of orthopedics). 

Check out the Regenexx Network Registry data organized per body region (Knee, Hip, Shoulder, Spine, etc) here

In tracking these patients via the registry data, it can also help providers determine which stem cell treatment strategies would be best for additional research. This continued research is imperative in the investigative field of orthobiologics. 

Through years of collecting and analyzing regenerative medicine registry data on our patients, we have continued to search for a relationship between age and poor outcomes. Without registry outcomes to show otherwise, it would be simple to assume that since older patients have fewer and aging stem cells, treatments using their own cells would show poorer outcomes. However, based on our data and research publications, that relationship largely does not exist. 

Published Research

Despite the massive amounts of published research on this topic, sadly, there are sales reps pushing dead amniotic or cord-blood tissue and falsely claiming that these processed and packaged products are live stem cells. Further, they suggest that these are superior to the patient’s own pluripotent cells and natural growth factors because they come from birth tissues.

For example, in knee stem cell treatments, we found no correlation between age and outcome when comparing age groups (i.e., ≤50 years, 51–60 years, and >60 years).

In treating orthopedic conditions, age does not affect stem cell treatment success. Older patients do just as well as younger patients with precise injection of their own stem cells. In fact, the only exception to a negative correlation with age and outcome that we have seen thus far is with hip arthritis. We found that patients ≤ 55 years old were more likely to report greater than 50% improvement. The poorer hip arthritis outcomes here, however, seem to be as much related to older age as to the severity of arthritis on an X-ray or an MRI.

Trust Your Own Cells

So, in short, within the realm of regenerative medicine, live, autologous cells are king. Dead, inactive amniotic cells are obviously not as functional as a living older cell. 

Our research shows that for the most part, age doesn’t define the success or failure of a regenerative procedure with your body’s own cells. 

At Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics, we aim to provide our clients with only the best non-surgical orthopedic alternatives. If you would like more information or better understand if Regenexx is right for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

About The Author
Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM

Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM

Ronald Torrance II, DO FAOASM, is a non-surgical orthopedic physician specializing in Sports Medicine at Regenexx® at New Regeneration Orthopedics.
Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM

Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM

Ronald Torrance II, DO FAOASM, is a non-surgical orthopedic physician specializing in Sports Medicine at Regenexx® at New Regeneration Orthopedics.

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