With its combination of bone, muscle, joints and more, the human musculoskeletal system is a complicated tangle of connections that can be difficult to repair. That was the challenge facing a panel of experts, who gathered for a mini-symposium on May 19 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.
Speakers included Andy McMahon, director of the stem cell center; Songtao Shi, associate professor at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC; Tom Vangsness, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; as well as researchers from other universities and private institutions.
Topics included “Aging and Rejuvenation of Skeletal Muscle” and “Transcriptional Programs of Chondrocyte Development.”
Vangsness spoke about the growing acceptance of stem cell procedures to treat joint problems and the concurrent growth in companies that are trying to gain traction in the field. His own area of expertise has been especially impacted.
“Orthopaedics remains the largest market for stem cell technology,” he said.
According to Vangsness, publicity and social media are spreading information about new procedures, which is causing the public to ask doctors about barely tested — and very expensive — therapies.
“There’s no evidence it works, but patients are asking for it,” he said.
McMahon said that when it comes to treating joint and muscle problems, reality and perception are not in sync.
“How far are we really?” he said. “The solid work has not been done to assess this.”
The event was co-sponsored by the stem cell center and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medical Center of USC.