Stem cell therapy gets arthritis patients back in the game


Dick McCarthy had been fit all his life but at age 82 the pain in his knees had gotten so bad it was hard for him to play the sports he enjoyed.

“I loved playing pickleball,” he said. “But I had bone on bone arthritis in my knees and it was very painful. My orthopedic physician suggested I undergo knee replacement surgery but I didn’t want to spend months in rehab. That’s when I heard about RBI (Regenerative Biologics Institute) in Vero Beach.

“They were experts in the field of stem cell therapy,” McCarthy continued. “After a very informative consultation and thorough evaluation with Jason Griffeth, M.S., the clinical director at the facility, I decided to give it a go. I had the procedure done on a Saturday afternoon. I was fully conscious and joking with the doctor for the two hours it took to complete, drove home, and went about my daily routine.

“I was back playing pickle ball the following Tuesday and I’ve been playing steadily for the last seven years since I had it done. For me, stem cell therapy changed my life and I am back to 100 percent comfort and mobility.”

According to Griffeth, who oversees a medical team that includes two physicians, a nurse practitioner and other medical professionals, McCarthy’s results are not unusual. The regenerative medicine scientist with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Microbiology and Cell Science from University of Florida has been involved stem cell research for over 20 years and has managed some of the largest pre-clinical and clinical trials in the field including using regenerative cells, platelet rich plasma and growth factors to treat orthopedic and cardiovascular patients.

These trials took place at some of the leading research hospitals in the United States including Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Scripps Research Hospital, Duke University, Mount Sinai Hospital and more. He also played a leading role in developing a gene-modified cellular treatment that led to the first ever IND (Investigational New Drug) approval by the FDA for a stem cell/gene therapy combination therapy.

Griffeth caught stem cell fever while he was a master’s student at the University of Florida. “We had a speaker at our school who had a company that started treating patients with congestive heart failure with stem cell therapy. At the time my own father was having some heart failure issues, so I was intrigued, and once I graduated I kept calling that guy until he hired me.

“Back then, we were manipulating the stem cells and adding additional genes to those cells to enhance the therapy. That is why it needed to be FDA approved. We don’t do that anymore.

Funding for most of those clinical trials went away with the collapse of the economy in 2008, so stem cell research switched to mostly orthopedics.

“The process we now use for orthopedics does not require FDA approval because we are using the patient’s own cells and not manipulating them all,” he continued. “It’s much like a coronary bypass grafting surgery where they take a vein from one area of the body and put it into the heart.

The only way to get living, functional stem cells and use them to treat a patient in the United States is to get them from the patient’s own tissue sample.”

The concept of regenerative medicine is to treat the underlying cause of the medical condition and not just mask the symptoms as some pharmaceuticals and treatments do.

“We utilize stem cells that are naturally programmed to repair soft tissue like cartilage, tendons or ligaments,” Griffeth explained. “We take those cells from a patient via a small tissue sample either from fat tissue or bone marrow, and process that tissue to isolate and concentrate these regenerative cells millions of times over and combine that with a growth factor using platelets from a patient’s own blood. We combine those things and place them into an area of need like a torn meniscus or damaged joint.”

The richest source of regenerative cells is fat tissue, so the physician typically extracts a small amount of fat tissue from the patient’s lower abdomen under local anesthetic. The extracted tissue sample is then taken to the in-house lab to be processed. This includes washing it, filtering it, separating fat cells from stem cells, centrifuging it and combining it with platelet rich plasma from the patient’s blood. The whole process takes a about two hours.

The plasma enhanced stem cells are then injected by a physician into the areas that need them. The team of stem cell scientists and doctors at RBI works together to make sure patients get the best treatment.

“Imagine growing a green lawn on bare dirt,” Griffeth said. “Basically, what we are doing biologically is planting seeds which are the stem cells and then fertilizing those seeds with platelet-rich plasma to help them grow and thrive in the joint. We can treat anywhere there is arthritis, and we can insert a needle. That includes knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, thumb joints, back and spine.

“Stem cell treatments have just about the same success rate as a joint replacement with 85-to-90 percent of the patients getting very positive results. Most patients have a reduction or elimination of pain and improvement in functionality without the need for major surgery,” Griffeth said.

The type of stem cell treatment depends on the severity of the arthritis with injections for all stages:

Mild arthritis occurs when the joint space is narrowing and the cartilage is starting to break down. RBI’s proprietary Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection is an all-natural alternative to Cortisone injections. Taken from the patient’s own blood, PRP contains significant amounts of anti-inflammatory and healing properties to help reduce pain and renew joint health.

Moderate arthritis occurs when there is moderate joint space reduction and the gaps in the cartilage can expand until they reach the bone. RBI’s GFX Injection is growth factor-enhanced PRP that provides the highest levels of growth factors to stimulate tissue healing and repair.
Severe arthritis occurs when 60 percent of the cartilage is already lost and the joint space greatly reduced. RBI’s TruGenta Injection Therapy contains both PRP and high concentrations of regenerative stem cells. The TruGenta treatment has helped many orthopedic patients reduce their pain, improve their mobility and avoid surgery.

“No one is too old for stem cell treatment,” Griffeth concluded. “Our oldest patient was 99. It’s important to remember that no matter what age you are we can extract millions of healthy regenerative cells from your own tissue because they are constantly regenerating. And because they are your own cells, there is zero chance of your body rejecting them.”

To learn more about regenerative medicine and determine whether it is an option for you, call 772-492-6973 to schedule a private, complimentary consultation. Or stop by the offices of Regenerative Biologics l Institute at 3750 Seventh Terrace, Suite 302A in Vero Beach. Information about scientific studies that attest to the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for a range of conditions can be found at

Comments are closed.