FAQ

What makes NeoGenix's Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments different from other clinics?

NeoGenix has the most experienced physician in the Carolinas when it comes to stem cell and regenerative therapies. Dr. James Altizer has performed thousands of procedures since January 2016. We have a variety of stem cell and regenerative therapies to choose from, so we are not limited in what we can offer. NeoGenix is the only clinic in the Carolinas offering the 3 gold standards of autologous (from you) stem cell and allogeneic (from a donor) regenerative growth factor therapies: bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue and Wharton’s Jelly.

Most clinics provide only freeze-dried, off-the-shelf, non-autologous, commercial products in a ‘one size fits all’ approach because it is easy and does not require extensive training or experience. There’s an old saying….” If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

NeoGenix uses an individualized approach to each patient, choosing the best stem cell and growth factor treatment for each patient based on their overall health and the severity of their underlying problem. In other words, we have an entire ‘toolbox’ to choose from!

Is it necessary to count my autologous Stem Cells after they are harvested?

There are stem cell clinics out there making a big deal about counting autologous stem cells after they are harvested from your body. They go on and on about how technologically advanced this is, how labor intensive it is, and how much better it is for the patient to have their cells ‘counted’ prior to stem cell treatment. In reality, all they are doing is trying to justify why they are charging you thousands of dollars more than other clinics doing the exact same procedures.

The bottom line is none of the most highly respected stem cell experts in the country are doing this, for multiple reasons. The technology to do accurate identification and counting of stem cells is extremely expensive, laborious, and time consuming. And when we say ‘time consuming’ we mean it takes DAYS or WEEKS to do it correctly.

Plus, counting stem cells in a patient’s sample entails more handling and manipulation of the sample which delays the time until the stem cells are actually injected into the patient, and could lead to a higher risk of bacterial contamination of the patient’s specimen. Besides, let’s say you went through the effort to actually COUNT the stem cells in a particular patient’s sample. What if the number is on the low side? Are you going to go back to the patient and take MORE stem cell material? No, you’re not, because the patient will likely not let you perform another harvest procedure the same day. So counting is more of an academic exercise. It doesn’t really change the outcome or benefit the patient IN ANY WAY.

To confirm our suspicions about this, we contacted Dr. Paul Tortland of the New England Stem Cell Institute in Glastonbury, CT. Dr. Tortland is an internationally recognized leader in nonsurgical sports medicine, musculoskeletal ultrasound, and regenerative medicine, especially in PRP and autologous stem cell treatments. He was the first physician in New England, and among the first in the country, to begin performing PRP and autologous stem cell treatments for orthopedic conditions, in 2007 and 2008, respectively. He was the first physician in the world to receive certification in Regenerative Medicine by the American Academy and Board of Regenerative Medicine. He’s board-certified in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and Sports Medicine. Dr. Altizer personally asked Dr. Tortland if there was any utility in counting stem cells prior to treatment. This was his answer, copied verbatim:

Hi James,

So here’s the bottom line:

At point of care, you can only measure total nucleated cell count (TNC). TNC counts measure ALL nucleated cells. From there you have to make an educated guess as to how many of those cells represent progenitor cells. And that number can vary greatly depending on the patient and your harvesting technique.

You need very expensive and sophisticated equipment to measure actual cell counts. To measure CFUs you have to plate out a sample and grow it for 2 weeks to see how many colonies form. To measure cell surface markers to determine if you actually have stem cells (e.g., CD45-), you need even more sophisticated equipment such as mass spectroscopy.

To measure stem cells from adipose, you have to digest the fat using collagenase and then perform counts on the cells once you isolate them. Again, something that no one is doing bedside. And even if you could do that, that does not necessarily indicate what’s happening in vivo. Once you digest the fat and isolate the cells, you have fundamentally changed the properties of the tissue. So it’s more of an academic exercise.

You can measure cell viability bedside, but it still doesn’t tell you what type of cells they are. So, bottom line is that it’s really blowing smoke. It’s a marketing gimmick.

Hope that helps,
Paul

So, the final answer is counting stem cells in a lab is a pointless waste of time outside of an academic research center. For the typical patient getting autologous stem cell therapy it makes absolutely no sense to do it and has absolutely no effect on the final outcome.

All it does is increase the TIME is takes to do an autologous stem cell treatment, increase the manipulation and handling of the patient’s specimen which could increase the RISK of infection, and greatly elevates the COST of the final treatment. So, until research shows a benefit of counting cells and until the renowned experts like Dr. Tortland start doing it, we won’t do it either.

How long has Dr. James Altizer been providing Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments?

Dr. James Altizer has provided thousands of stem cell and growth factor treatments in Charlotte since January 2016 making him the most experienced physician in the Carolinas. Dr. Altizer uses state-of-the-art techniques, high-end diagnostic equipment and is in charge of your case from start to finish.

Along the way, he received expert training from recognized leaders in the regenerative medicine field. Early on, he trained on bone marrow aspiration with Duke University affiliated physicians. In 2017, he was asked to be guest faculty at The Orthobiologics Institute (TOBI) Annual Meeting in Las Vegas where he taught the liposuction workshop for adipose tissue harvesting.

What type of medical professional will be performing my procedures?

Dr. James Altizer, our director of stem cell and regenerative therapies, is the only one performing procedures in our office. He has provided thousands of stem cell and growth factor treatments since January of 2016. At NeoGenix, Dr. Altizer is in charge of your case from start to finish.

If you are shopping around at other clinics, be very careful you are not fooled into having a procedure performed at a Chiropractic “straw” clinic staffed solely by inexperienced nurse practitioners or physician assistants in order to cut costs. In these clinics you may never even see a physician. These clinics might be owned by a medical doctor on paper, but in reality, all patient care is dictated by Chiropractors practicing medicine without a license. These Chiropractic clinics use high pressure sales tactics and often over promise or even guarantee results.

We understand we are not the only clinic in the Carolinas providing stem cell and growth factor treatments, but we are one of the few with an actual MD who oversees your care from start to finish and actually performs your procedures, and our MD has more experience than anyone else in the Carolinas. When it comes to making a decision about your health, make sure you choose a clinic with an experienced, licensed physician that will be open and honest with you. You will get a realistic appraisal of whether or not stem cell and growth factor treatments will work for you, and if Dr. Altizer doesn’t think it will work, he will tell you that, too.

What percent of your patients respond to Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments?

Based on thousands of stem cell and growth factor procedures performed by Dr. Altizer since January of 2016, over 94% of patients have subjectively, objectively, and through activities of daily living reported the procedure was successful. The success of the procedure was determined by the patient achieving at least a 50% or move overall improvement with lasting results. When asked after 3 months what the overall improvement was, patients have subjectively, objectively, and through activities of daily living reported an average overall improvement of between 83-84%.

Like everything else in medicine, stem cell and growth factor treatments may not help everyone. Response to stem cell and growth factor treatments depends on the underlying health of the patient, their baseline level of activity, their weight, and the severity of the underlying problem. In our experience, even patients with advanced degrees of arthritis can benefit from stem cell and growth factor treatments. We have seen many patients who were told by other clinics they were ‘bone on bone’ in an effort to scare them into getting joint replacement surgery when in reality their arthritis was not that bad.

When in doubt, get a second opinion. We never pressure anyone to get treatment. But the fact is stem cell and growth factor treatments are useful and valuable options when it comes to arthritis treatment. In many cases stem cell and growth factor treatments have been able to allow patients to avoid or delay joint replacement surgery.

How long do results last for Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments?

No arthritis therapy is permanent because there is no way to completely stop the disease of arthritis. Even artificial knee joints last on average 10-15 years before wearing out. You might know someone who has had to have a ‘re-do’ joint replacement. But with stem cell and growth factor treatments our hope is to prevent patients from having to resort to joint replacement surgery or at least delay it as long as possible.

Medical studies on stem cell and growth factor treatments currently show results lasting up to 2 years. That does not mean your own results will last that long nor does it mean that your good results will always stop after 2 years, it just means that is as far out as currently available studies have gone. Dr. Altizer has treated thousands of patients, and many are still doing well even past 2 years. No, stem cell and growth factor treatments are not a permanent cure for arthritis. There is no such thing, not even with surgery. (And if anyone tells you the results are permanent or a cure you are in the wrong clinic).

How many injections are part of the NeoGenix 5 Step Treatment Process?

There is no permanent cure for degenerative arthritis. Stem cell and growth factor treatments help to regenerate and heal tissues damaged by arthritis, but the disease process of arthritis is still ongoing due to the effects of time, gravity, and constant use.

At NeoGenix, we use a proprietary 5 Step Treatment Process no one else in Carolinas has to provide our patients with the best possible results. We learned this from nationally renowned experts in the regenerative medicine field.

The process involves preparing the ‘sick’ joint to be more hospitable for the stem cells and growth factors. This involves one injection done a week or so prior to the stem cell and/or growth factor injection itself. We have also discovered, using our own experience treating thousands of patients, most people do better when given a ‘booster’ shot of growth factors 6 to 8 weeks after the initial stem cell and/or growth factor injection. So, in the ideal case a patient would get a ‘joint prep’ shot, then a week or so later they would get the actual stem cell and/or growth factor injection, and finally, 6 to 8 weeks later, they would get the ‘booster’ injection of growth factors.

But remember, injections are only part of the NeoGenix 5 Step Treatment Process. We also recommend bracing the affected joint for periods of time during the process. Bracing off-loads weight from the joint and allows it to move and heal with less stress. Along this same line, quality physical therapy is integral to the process by strengthening the muscles around the joint, helping the joint regain proper motion and function.

All of these factors combined together in the NeoGenix 5 Step Treatment Process will maximize your chances at attaining the best possible results in the shortest amount of time.

There is no other treatment available that has the potential to do this. Not cortisone. Not hyaluronic acid gel shots (the so-called ‘rooster comb’ shots). It’s stem cells and growth factors…..or eventual surgery.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this. If you are coming from far out of town and can only make one visit, then a single stem cell and/or growth factor injection would be the most practical treatment in that instance. We make every attempt to tailor the treatment to the specific patient.

Where do you get the Stem Cells and Growth Factors from?

That is one of the most important questions you must ask any provider who wishes to treat you with stem cells. At NeoGenix we use YOUR stem cells from your own body (called ‘autologous’, meaning it comes from YOU).

There are stem cells in every single tissue in our bodies, but in some tissues they are more plentiful. Bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue are the two main sources of active, viable stem cells, and those are the two sources we use. And contrary to what you might have been told at other clinics, even older people have plenty of healthy, viable stem cells…plenty enough to get the job done.

By using your own body as the source of stem cells we are helping your body heal itself! And by using your own stem cells there is no risk of blood-borne viral infections like hepatitis, HIV, Zika, and many others.

When evaluating the use of placental, amniotic, or umbilical cord tissue products, first of all, these products are obtained from tissues donated after normal, live births and NOT from human embryos, so there is no controversy here. The tissues are screened for infectious diseases, processed, freeze-dried, placed into sterile vials, and shipped all over the country. In the Carolinas, the majority of ‘stem cell’ clinics do not have a physician in their office doing procedures, so they use these off-the-shelf products because it’s easy for the physician assistant or nurse practitioner to just pull the product off the shelf or out of the liquid nitrogen tank and inject the patient They do this because they simply do not have the skills to harvest living stem cells from an actual patient using local anesthetic like Dr. Altizer does.

An important point about all these off-the-shelf products is that being freeze dried, they do NOT contain any LIVING STEM CELLS. Anyone who advertises these products as containing live stem cells is violating FDA regulations and is guilty of false advertising. (There’s a lot of that going around.) At NeoGenix, we offer what we feel is the best, highest quality, umbilical cord tissue product on the market, Wharton’s Jelly. It is what we refer to as a ‘growth factor’ product. It is rich in tissue growth factors that help to heal damaged tissue. It is useful for patients with medical conditions that do not allow us to harvest their own stem cells from bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue or for patients who do not wish to go through the harvesting process. NeoGenix is the only clinic in the Carolinas offering this product IN ADDITION TO live stem cell harvesting from bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue.

Are Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments FDA approved?

As long as physicians use autologous stem cells and growth factors (that come from the patient themselves and not someone else), the FDA has no problem with doctors doing these procedures, provided basic rules are followed (e.g. no freezing, no shipping, no overnight storage, no other medications added, etc.).

The FDA has stated they will make a decision on the continuing use of allogeneic growth factor products (that come from other people, like the placental, umbilical cord, and amniotic products) in another year or two. Until that time, they are continuing to evaluate these products. It is highly likely, at that time, the FDA will ban all allogeneic products that are not FDA approved. Note: this does NOT apply to autologous stem cells harvested from the patient themselves.

The only stem cell and growth factor treatment currently FDA approved involves the use of bone marrow transplants for treating leukemia. FDA approval for stem cell and growth factor treatments for other indications like degenerative arthritis is highly likely, we just do not know when. The equipment NeoGenix uses to process stem cells and growth factors is FDA cleared for that use, and NeoGenix is careful to abide by all FDA regulations pertaining to stem cell treatments.

AVOID INTRAVENOUS STEM CELL AND GROWTH FACTOR TREATMENTS AT ALL COSTS! There are absolutely no valid medical indications for intravenous stem cell or growth factor treatments (except for FDA approved indications for hematologic cancers and leukemias performed in hospitals as mentioned above). This type of therapy is in direct violation of FDA regulations and ANY CLINIC that performs these potentially dangerous treatments is at risk of being shut down immediately by the FDA. It is precisely because of clinics like these performing clinically-unsupported treatments that ‘stem cell therapy’ is starting to get a bad reputation in some places. These shady clinics offer patients false hope for treatment of serious medical conditions like MS, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and others. These unscrupulous clinics are stealing money from desperately ill people who will pay anything for a chance at a cure, but a cure will not be found in this type of therapy. They are the modern day equivalent of the itinerant snake oil salesmen of the late 1800’s. Do not fall for these false promises of a cure. Run, don’t walk, from any clinic offering intravenous stem cell and growth factor treatments.

How do Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments help your body heal?

If stem cells and growth factors are present in most body tissues, then why can’t the body heal joints and tendons like it heals other damaged tissues? The answer is multi-faceted, but it is due mainly to the fact that joint tissues (along with tendons and ligaments) do not have good circulation. There are no arteries inside joints. The joint cannot support the kind of metabolic activity needed for cartilage to heal on its own.

Researchers used to think the injected stem cells actually turned into new cartilage. Recent work has shown something slightly different is happening. The stem cells injected serve as chemical messengers. These stem cell messengers send signals to dormant stem cells already living inside your damaged tissues. These special signals tell dormant stem cells to ‘wake up’ and begin to grow and repair tissue damage caused by wear and tear. It’s your own body healing itself. We’re giving it the ‘boost’ it requires…a boost it can’t get on its own, to get the process started.

Injected growth factors also serve as chemical messengers. These growth factor messengers signal the body when tissue damage is present and help to recruit additional growth factors and cells to aid in tissue repair.

Growth factor injections can work well by themselves for some mild to moderate musculoskeletal problems, but for more serious conditions like moderate to severe arthritis, the combination of growth factors and stem cells works best. Growth factors magnify and enhance the actions of stem cells; therefore, the body requires BOTH to heal tissue damage most effectively.

What is A2M Therapy?

A2M is short for alpha 2 macroglobulin. A2M is a protein we all have circulating in our bloodstream all the time. Its job is to search for and destroy enzymes that break down cartilage and other important proteins in the body.

Arthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage inside joints, breakdown that is caused by cartilage-damaging enzymes. A2M injection is the absolute best way to prepare a joint for stem cell and growth factor treatments and is one of the treatment options we offer at NeoGenix. A2M is obtained by a simple blood draw. The blood is put through a special filter that concentrates the A2M from your own blood. It was discovered some years ago that when A2M is injected into an arthritically-inflamed joint, the A2M immediately captures and destroys all of the cartilage damaging enzymes. In essence, the arthritis STOPS, albeit temporarily.

In many cases the joint pain improves dramatically after just a few days, evidence that joint pain itself is, in part, caused by the effects of these damaging enzymes. Once the bad enzymes have been destroyed, the patient returns after a week or so for an injection of stem cells and/or growth factors. So A2M essentially stops the cartilage breakdown process, and the stem cells and growth factors can now begin the cartilage rebuilding process. This dramatic ONE-TWO PUNCH is extremely successful at improving pain and ability to function in patients with moderate to severe arthritis. But A2M injection by itself is never adequate treatment, because its effects are temporary. The purpose of A2M is to stop the inflammation inside the joint so the stem cell and growth factor treatments will work more effectively.

Does insurance cover Stem Cell and Growth Factor treatments?

Insurance companies have not yet instituted coverage for stem cell and growth factor treatments, and it will most likely be several years before this happens. Most patients with degenerative arthritis cannot wait that long for treatment if they want to avoid or delay surgery. They need help now.

While the stem cell growth factor treatments themselves may not be covered, the following steps of the NeoGenix 5 Step Treatment Process are almost always covered by insurance: The Triple Shot, joint bracing, and joint rehabilitation.

What are the possible complications from Stem Cell and Growth Factor injections?

Any time you penetrate the skin there is a small risk of infection. Our procedures are performed using strict aseptic techniques, so infection is rare, occurring in only about 1 of every 1000 patients as is true with any minimally-invasive medical procedure.

Other possible complications include allergic reactions to local anesthetic, and bleeding, and both of these are extremely rare. We can even do these procedures in patients who are on blood thinners, provided they can stop the blood thinner for several days beforehand. (Never stop your blood thinning medication unless cleared by your personal physician to do so.)

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Thousands of procedures performed since January, 2016 with patient satisfaction rates of over 94%*

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* Based on thousands of stem cell and growth factor procedures performed by Dr. Altizer since January of 2016, over 94% of patients have subjectively, objectively, and through activities of daily living reported the procedure was successful. The success of the procedure was determined by the patient achieving at least a 50% or move overall improvement with lasting results. When asked after 3 months what the overall improvement was, patients have subjectively, objectively, and through activities of daily living reported an average overall improvement of between 83-84%.