Stem cells from donated placentas healing stubborn injuries - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Stem cells from donated placentas healing stubborn injuries

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It sounds like something straight out of science fiction: stem cells from donated placentas are being injected into patients with hard-to-heal injuries.  The results have been phenomenal, all by taking advantage of something that would be discarded as medical waste.

The stem cells inside a tiny vial will morph into something totally new once injected into the body.  Dr. Brett Cascio is the Medical Director of Sports Medicine at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and he is using this cutting edge technology in some of his toughest cases.  “We've know the special nature of stem cells for years, decades,” he said, “but harvesting them and getting them to do what we want them to do is the difficult part.”

Dr. Cascio has treated all sorts of injuries - some that just have a tough time healing.  “For some reason along the way, their healing either stopped or went haywire and they didn't heal correctly,” he said, “and they need help on the cellular level to heal their problem.”

That is where stem cells come in: not from a live human being, but from a donated placenta.  The cells are tested, prepared and frozen until needed.  One placenta can help hundreds of patients.  “You don't reject these cells,” said Dr. Cascio, “your body recognizes them as a potential healing factor and helps it to heal itself.”

That healing is something Chad Theriot was desperate to find after rupturing the longest ligament in his foot while playing basketball.  “I heard a loud pop,” he said, “and then instant pain.  I knew immediately that something was wrong.

Months passed with Theriot on crutches, in a boot, in pain and unable to be the family man he wanted to be.  “My wife was having to pick up slack everywhere,” he said, “ at home, at work, with the baby..  I wasn't able to help much.”


A second opinion brought Theriot to Dr. Cascio.  The plan was to inject stem cells into the bottom of Theriot's foot , having them grow into good, healthy tissue in the place of what was damaged.  “So if you put them in connective tissue or skin, they can grow into skin-type cells or in muscle, they can grow into muscle-type cells,” said Dr. Cascio.

Patients are given twilight anesthesia and the injections are given under X-ray guidance.  The actual injection only takes one minute.  “Two weeks later I was taking unassisted steps and my pain level on a scale from one to ten went from an eight to a two,” said Theriot.

That was the first time Theriot walked without help in four months.  “That was a big day for me,” he said, “that was a big day for us.”

This stem cell technology is still in its early stages, but Dr. Cascio says the future is exciting.  “These are not magical cells, it's not like pixie dust, but they help the body heal itself and you can get some really amazing results,” he said.

Data is being collected from sites around the country offering stem cell injections to identify who would benefit the most.  Some insurance companies will cover these injections.  Prices range from $500-2500.

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