Defenders investigate new medical clinics promising healing powers in Metro Detroit

Stem cell and tissue injections becoming more popular

DETROIT – Stem cell and tissue injections have been getting a lot of buzz now that professional athletes are turning to the procedures to help with injuries.

The demand is so high, several new clinics are opening up in Metro Detroit. But many of those procedures aren't yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That has people wondering if the procedures are safe or worth the money.

Some people swear by it, but the FDA has yet to approve it. Stem cell and tissue regeneration is becoming very popular to treat aches and pains, but does it work?

It's a new clinic in Bloomfield Hills, and if the hot new trend continues, you might be seeing one in your neighborhood soon. It's called the Center for Regenerative Medicine. They specialize in stem cell and tissue regeneration injections to treat injuries, relieve pain and delay invasive surgeries.

"We're really seeing a lot of athletes," said George Murphy, of New Life Regenerative Medicine. "We work with all the major sports, in the NFL, NHL, PGA. They're all kind of getting into this now."

Promoters believe it's the future of modern medicine.

"So we've had wonderful results with the amniotic fluid over the years," Murphy said. "Now we're bringing in these new tissues, which we're actually getting better results with."

The center doesn't use the controversial placenta, which has sparked national debate. They do collect or harvest amniotic fluid and umbilical chords following the birth of a newborn.

"Absolutely," Murphy said. "This is not embryonic. This is amniotic. It has not (caused) harm to the mother or the fetus. ... Like I said, we capture it at scheduled cesarean sections, and we harvest that, and we're using that with great results in orthopedics, spine and pain management."

Word is spreading fast from athletes and everyday patients who have had success with stem cell injections and tissue regeneration. Now a group of doctors is teaming up with the center, adding credibility to the emerging treatment.

"Very new," said orthopedic surgeon Jeff Carroll. "This is cutting-edge kind of medicine."

The doctors said stem cell and tissue regeneration is just one of many potential options to consider.

"Best-case scenario, maybe it works and it buys you some more time with your knee, hip or shoulder," Carroll said. "I've even had patients that have avoided surgery from it."

They also admitted that while it's working for some people, it might not work for others.

"There's some good early science, but nothing proven yet," Carroll said. "That's the best part of this whole thing. The worst-case scenario with this is it just doesn't work."

The FDA, which regulates the process, has not approved it, saying there isn't enough evidence yet that it works.

"The hope is that stem cells will regenerate to other types of cells that may heal areas that are otherwise damaged," said Local 4 medical expert Dr. Frank McGeorge. "But there is no good science to prove that is what really happens, and we don't know what stem cells are going to do in that part of the body."

McGeorge said the procedures are interesting, but far from proven.

"I think it is great that a doctor is opening the door and allowing patients opportunities when they want that hope," McGeorge said. "But sometimes those opportunities are just costly and not a benefit."

The procedures can be expensive, especially since insurance companies rarely pay for procedures that aren't approved by the FDA. The industry has been pushing the FDA to look at more studies and reconsider.

"I think (there's) a lot of potential with this particular injection for arthritis, sports medicine injuries," Carroll said. "Those are the two big ones that I see in person."

Many swear by the cutting-edge treatment, saying it has helped with knee, elbow and shoulder pain -- in some cases, enough to prevent surgeries. The doctors said the upside is encouraging.

"They see the benefit over using a steroid," Murphy said. "They see the benefit of using this instead of opioids. You know, they see the benefit of using these therapies to maybe (sic) off a surgical application."

New scientific studies continue to show potential in this evolving industry, but experts warn to be careful of clinics that over-promise potential results, saying the best advice for those who want to try it is to listen to what the doctors offering it have to say, and then to get a second opinion from a personal doctor.