QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is the difference between ReGen and other clinics?
We are a clinic in NZ offering pure expanded stem cell therapy.
This is not a same-day procedure. Our point of difference is that after taking 50 grams or two tablespoons of fat from patients by a mini-liposuction procedure. We extract and isolate the mesenchymal stem cells and then expand them for up to 8 weeks in our laboratories in Auckland and Queenstown.
We grow a patient's stem cells to hundreds of millions. Research and our own results data has shown the larger the number of MSCs the greater the chance of regeneration.
When the patient's own cells are injected back into the area of injury they are getting a minimum of 80 million stem cells per large joint and 10-25 for smaller joint groups. Only at this number is there a chance for the cartilage to regrow.
To ensure our expanded cell quality and viability is at a consistently high level we get patients samples independently verified in a process called stem cell characterisation.
So the big difference is that you grow the patients’ cells in your lab for 8 weeks?
Trials have shown that in order for the potential of cartilage regrowth you need to re-inject a large number of Mesenchymal stem cells. The cells must be expanded in a lab over weeks and once out of the lab cryostorage, re-injected within a matter of hours.
This cannot be achieved in a same-day procedure.
Under normal stem cell treatments done by non-expanded clinics you can reinject up to 3-5 million stem cells but we are often putting up to 100 million targeted expanded cells into a single joint. This means patients not only get anti-inflammatory properties but at that expanded number our patients get a much better outcome and cartilage regrowth has the highest chance of happening.
What’s wrong with surgery?
At ReGen we believe surgery should be the last option not the first. Our treatment is a non-surgical alternative to joint replacement or tendon tears.
For many of those suffering indescribable pain caused by OA, they are lead to believe surgery is the only option. The lack of surgeons to carry out replacement surgeries in NZ can mean being placed on a waiting list. This on top of recovery times and rehabilitation means that some are reluctant to undergo joint replacement surgery.
Our data shows 82% of patients felt better after treatment and 72% could resume activities they could not do prior to expanded stem cell treatment. At ReGen we are confident that we can offer the increasing aging population a non-invasive, non-surgical alternative using their own body matter that can ensure lives are lived longer in good health.
We urge those considering surgery to research expanded stem cells as a way to allow their body to use its own matter to heal.
What are your results?
Our current autologous treatments for OA have shown the potential to provide;
- Substantial pain relief
- Improvement in function
- Halting of disease progression
- Potential of delaying and/ or possibly eliminating the need for expensive joint replacement
- Patient x-rays and MRIs show regeneration is possible and does occur
Specialist Sports Physicians report that the clinical results of the treatments are far superior to any other alternative treatments for OA. There have been no reports of any serious adverse events.
Sports stars regularly seek us out to repair a reoccurring injury or to elongate careers. We have treated All Blacks to golfers, martial arts to timbersports world champions.
Regen’s expertise, investment, facilities and clinical advisory team with some of the best brains in the regenerative medicine world make us the leader in NZ’s developing industry.
Is stem cell treatment is expensive?
Our treatments are half the price of surgery.
With us one large joint is $13,000 and two of the same joint is $16,000 including GST.
Single knee joint surgery is between $21,000-29,000.
Because we have both a clinic and a lab and control our own procedures from extraction to expansion, we can store patients’ excess cells for further treatments on other joints in years to come. There is no need for future fat extractions.
Is treatment covered by insurance or ACC?
ACC do not cover consultations or treatment but a big breakthrough for ReGen in 2019 was that some insurers began covering the cost of our treatments. This is a first in NZ and Australia.
In 2020 we have seen more procedures covered and are hopeful that our results and positive feedback from our clients will continue to see us partner with insurers.
It is a very positive sign for the future that pure expanded stem cell treatment will become commonplace and stem cell therapies have potential to become covered by insurance for those suffering from osteoarthritis and injury.
What are mesenchymal stem cells?
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs, also sometimes called mesenchymal stromal cells) are adult stem cells derived from non-blood tissues. In simple terms, stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from fat tissue can differentiate into bone, muscle, cartilage and fat. When placed in a joint they can stimulate and potentially regenerate the cartilage.
Where do you get the stem cells from?
We get them from your own adipose tissue (fat) through a lipoaspirate extraction. Then the fat tissue is processed in the laboratory and the stem cells are isolated and harvested. Our stem cell treatment only uses autologous cells, meaning they come from your own body. Using a patients own stem cells minimises the risk of rejection.
What happens if I suffer from anxiety or don't like needles?
Some of our patients undergoing stem cell therapy suffer extreme nervousness, anxiety or have a fear of needles. It is usual for patients to be given pain medication to take prior to the procedure but for those patients suffering with anxiety we can offer additional pain relief directly before and during the procedure.
Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that is commonly used by dentists and doctors for sedation and pain relief for patients undergoing minor medical procedures.
Our patients have found the sedative gas option a great comfort as it makes them more relaxed so they can cope better with any discomfort during the procedure. If you suffer from anxiety or nervousness around needles then this option is available to you.
What is the process of harvesting stem cells?
A qualified specialist will take the fat sample in an accredited operating theatre under local anesthesia. The process takes around an hour. The fat tissue is sent to our laboratories, where the mesenchymal stem cells are extracted, purified and then expanded. There’s very little pain involved in the stem cell harvest and dissolving stitches are used so follow-up removal isn't required. Patients need to avoid anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofren, voltaran or celebrex for two weeks prior to the procedure.
What are Expanded Stem Cells?
Our proprietary process means the Mesenchymal stem cells are extracted, isolated and purified from other types of cells. Expanded means the cells are multiplied and cultured to as many as are needed for your particular case. We typically grow up to 100 million cells for a single joint. Those millions of mesenchymal stem cells represent the most concentrated form of stem cells available in the market today.
Am I a candidate for stem cell therapy?
If you have osteoarthritis or injury that has not recovered and continues to cause pain, you may be. While there is a lot of information on our site, it may be best to ring the clinic and talk through your own requirements. We can advise whether a consult with Dr Matti would be beneficial. If you are pregnant or have active cancer, stem cell therapy is contraindicated and we cannot treat you.
What happens after my expanded stem cell therapy?
After the injection, there may be some minor pain and swelling. Minor inflammation occurs as part of the healing process when the cartilage interacts with stem cells, potentially stimulating cartilage growth. Crutches will be needed for knee patients. Braces for some injected joints will also be required. Avoid applying ice after the procedure as this can damage cells. A prescription for pain medication will be provided. Paracetamol is recommended. No anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofren, voltaran or celebrex should be taken for 4 weeks as this will reduce the potency of the stem cells.
How to achieve optimal results after stem cell therapy?
After the injection, we recommend a week’s rest and a joint brace. During your initial consultation, the doctor will determine which of the brace types we offer is recommended. We also have partnered with selected physiotherapists to develop a dedicated rehabilitation program. This is specially designed to integrate the stem cells into your joints and to keep the area stable. You can return to normal walking after two weeks. After a month you can run and resume full activities. Alignment braces should be used three months for support during weight-bearing activities. We also recommend taking both Curcumin and Boswellia which are herbal supplements that reduce inflammation and increase healing and blood flow.
Can I travel after stem cell harvesting?
Yes. After the harvest, your fat tissue is processed in the laboratory and your stem cells are expanded before being put into cryostorage. We can cryostore your cells for up to one year at no charge. When you return you can schedule your injection for a time that fits easily into your schedule.
Can you inject more than one joint or area in the same session?
Yes, we can. This will be discussed during the initial consult. We commonly encounter two knees or two hips. In addition, multiple small joints in the hands and feet can be injected in one prolonged session. Any combination of areas to be treated together can be considered.
Can I have the fat sample and the stem cell injection all in Auckland?
Yes, you can. The initial consultation, harvest, and injection are all in Auckland. After your consult, you’ll be scheduled to have your fat sample taken in one of our many accredited operating theatres. Your sample will be securely sent to our laboratories for culturing. When ready (around 6-8 weeks) we’ll contact you to schedule your injection appointment, in the same location as your first consult.
Do you guarantee success?
We only accept patients who show the best promise of a successful outcome. No therapy or intervention can guarantee 100% success. Our results across all our treatments show 70-90% reduction in pain, increased mobility and in some cases cartilage regeneration.
Are there risks with expanded stem cell treatment?
Complications are rare and minor. The most common is pain and irritation at the injection site which lasts for 2-3 days. Infection is rare as the sample is sterilized and sterile conditions are maintained during the injection.
There is a potential for what is called a 'stem cell flare' post injection. When stem cells are injected into an area of pain or injury, a natural reaction of the stem cells is to release heat shock proteins when in inflamed tissue. This can be quite painful and the joint will appear more inflamed and stiff than before the injection. If this occurs please telephone the clinic so that we can arrange for a higher level of pain relief. This discomfort only remains for around 24 to 48 hours. Although a uncomfortable, this flare reaction is seen as a positive as it indicates the patient’s stem cells are in the right place and doing their job.
Do stem cells regrow cartilage in all patients?
Our treatment contains the highest dosage of MSCs in any stem cell treatment available in NZ.
We use the best injecting techniques under ultrasound guidance to ensure the cells are injected deep into the joints or affected area by our experienced doctor. The regrowth of cartilage takes some time with months 6-12 pivotal for this process. Expanded stem cell treatment provides other results in addition to potential regrowth. Over 80% of patients report less stiffness, reduced pain, better sleep and improved range of motion.
Can stem cells be stored and how much does it cost?
Yes. As part of your treatment package, we store your cells in cryopreservation for 1 year free of charge. We can keep them securely stored for up to 15 years at an annual cost of $350 incl GST billed annually. The upside is that the younger you have your original treatment, the younger your cells remain in cryostorage and these younger stem cells will be available if needed in the future.
Can you repeat the process of injecting the same area or another area in the future and does it cost me anything?
If the original cells have been stored with us, we can repeat the injection for up to 15 years. As the cells will need to be expanded into a number big enough for regeneration, there will be a cost involved.
Do you inject stem cells into the spine?
No. Current Medical Council guidelines do not at this stage permit us to inject spines. We can treat knees, shoulders, hips, ankles, elbows and as of 2020 fingers.