Adult Stem Cells Benefit Young Athlete

FOX 35 News Orlando

Watching Natasha Merangoli run drills, you wouldn’t guess that two years ago, doctors said she’d never play soccer again.

“Playing soccer just sets your mind free,” she said, adding that it was “devastating” when she was told she might not be able to play the sport.

In December of 2012, Natasha Hurt her ankle and didn’t think much of it, though she was playing and living in constant pain.

“It felt like someone stabbing me from the inside of my foot out,” she said.

That stabbing feeling was the result of the bones in her foot dying.  She was diagnosed with a condition called avascular necrosis, where the bone can’t get enough blood flow.

“The problem with avascular necrosis is, when the bone dies, it can collapse, and then you get a very rapid secondary degeneration,” said Dr. Dennis Lox, a sports and regenerative medicine expert.  “The most common cause is from trauma, but often times, athletes experience aches and pains all the time, so they just think it’s going to get better.  And it just doesn’t.”

After a few months of not getting better, several doctors told Natasha that her only option was ankle fusion surgery and to pick a new sport. Then, she met Dr. Lox.  He said he could save her ankle and her soccer career, with her own stem cells.

“Stem cells hone. They hone to areas of injury,” Dr. Lox said.

He showed us how he harvested stem cells from Natasha’s abdomen and injected them directly into her ankle.

Stem cells are basically cells in the body that can become other types of cells,” Dr. Lox added. Transforming into cartilage and bone and bringing the dead bone back to life.

In just under six months, Natasha was back on the field.

“Some days, I forget which foot it was, because I don’t feel anything anymore,” said Natasha.

Her dreams of playing pro soccer are back on track. With 23 goals this past season, as a freshman, she was the top scorer on Boone High School’s varsity girls team.

“It was very rewarding to see that you gave somebody an alternate destiny, and it was the destiny that she wanted which was to continue to play soccer,” said Dr. Lox.

Doctors diagnose up to 100,000 new cases of avascular necrosis every year. Simple stem cell regenerative surgeries typically cost around $5,000 and they are not covered by insurance.

Source:  WOFL Fox35Orlando


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