I am afflicted with the unusual condition of having early-stage degenerative arthritis in nearly every synovial joint in my body, apparently sparing only the facet joints of my spine. I do not have rheumatoid arthritis or any other systemic condition that would normally be associated with body-wide symptoms, and blood tests have confirmed this.
Additionally, my condition is not genetic or congenital; I acquired it nine years ago as a result of a specific cause that I'm certain of. While still in its early stages and only mildly symptomatic in any one joint, cumulatively is quite painful and has caused significant hardship by cutting me off from my preferred work options and lifestyle.
In the last few years, a small, but significant body of research has demonstrated that intra-articular injections of autologous mesenchymal stems cells (MSCs) can regenerate osteoarthritic articular cartilage, reversing the course of the disease. This process involves aspirating bone marrow, isolating and expanding the MSCs in the lab, and then injecting the cells into the patient's joint.
This could be a "holy grail" for me...if I could access it on the scale I need it on. If I could use this therapy successfully in just the joints of my upper body, that would be good enough to radically improve my quality of life.
The main complication is the fact that I have so many joints involved. This poses two problems: 1) cost, and 2) the need to aspirate enough bone marrow to address all of the joints. Currently, it costs about $5000 to get stem cell therapy for a single joint pair (i.e. both knees) at any of the clinics that are rapidly popping up to offer this treatment.
The only way to overcome problem #2, obtaining enough stem cells from bone marrow, is to expand them in culture. Tragically, the FDA made it illegal to do this (commercially at least) in 2012 when it won a landmark lawsuit alleging that a patient's "adulterated" autologous stem cells constitute "drugs" that are subject to FDA regulation, completely putting the brakes on the development of this urgently needed technology.
So anyway, what all this gives rise to the need for me to administer the treatment to myself. That is, I've got to aspirate my own bone marrow, treat in vitro to isolate the desired cells, and inject the final product into my own joints. All of this, including cultivating my own "drugs" (i.e. stem cells), is completely legal. It's just going to be extraordinarily difficult.
Of these undertakings, I project that the most difficult will be aspirating my own bone marrow. Normally, this is taken from the posterior iliac crest, which would be extremely difficult for me to reach, and which I would have to do blindly or with the use of cameras. Alternative sites would be the sternum and ribsâ??highly undesirable due to the risk of puncturing vital organsâ??and the tibial plateau, which while much easier to reach, I understand that the marrow from this area contains fewer cells, and thus may not be useful for my purposes. So figuring out for to get my own bone marrow is issue #1.
Cultivating the cells, although it requires expensive equipment, is the easy part. Apparently all the needed materials can be ordered online, and there are many scholarly materials containing of clearly written instructions. I am confident that I can pull this part off.
Major problem #2 will be injecting the final product into my joints. For certain joints, such as the hips, this would simply be impossible for me to do on my own; I would need to pay to have a professional do it. But for most sites, it should theoretically be possible for me to do it on my own. In general, what I don't get is how the hell a clinician guides a needle into a joint capsule without striking the the articular surface with the tip.
I would be sincerely interested in hearing any thoughts on the foregoing discussion. All this is 100% dead serious. Thanks in advance.