Orthopedic stem cell products are a relatively new form of bone graft substitute (BGS) and have generated considerable hype in the industry. After all, these products are perceived to be one of the better alternatives to autografts (which are harvested from the patient's own body) among many surgeons. But there are still a lot of questions around the effectiveness of these products.

First, a quick background. Orthopedic stem cells contain high concentrations of mesenchymal stem cells, which are naturally occurring in adults and are used by the body to regenerate damaged tissue. The concentration of these cells found in the body, however, decreases with age, which explains why healing occurs more slowly among elderly patients. Implanting orthopedic stem cell products at sites needing repair can therefore promote bone healing at a faster pace.

Although orthopedic stem cell products are more expensive than a lot of BGS products, they?re still less expensive than growth factors, which are widely perceived as being the best alternative to autografts because of their osteogenic properties. Osteogenic materials are able to generate new bone themselves, an ability that only exists in growth factors and orthopedic stem cell products among current BGS materials. Additionally, growth factors have been the subject of a lot of negative press lately, which has caused more physicians to look at alternative products.
Because of these factors, the US orthopedic stem cell market is growing at a very rapid pace?the market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of about 20% through 2017, generating the second-highest revenues (only second to growth factors) of the BGS segments by that year. There are several more companies that are looking to get into this market, including Celling Technologies and Mesoblast, to compete against the likes of NuVasive, Orthofix, Biomet, and AlloSource.
Nonetheless, these products still remain investigational, and more data will be required before physicians widely accept these products?this is probably compounded by the fact that these products remain much more expensive than a number of other BGS available. For these same reasons, these products are not reimbursed by a number of insurance providers.
In the fast-growing BGS market (already worth $1.5 billion), however, there is definitely revenue potential if manufacturers are able to prove the viability of this technology.

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