A new stem cell treatment practice in Fruitport aims to reduce the need for joint replacements.
X-Cell Integrative Health, 3427 Farr Road, Suite B, focuses on treating degenerative joint conditions with injections of umbilical cord stem cells, as an alternative for replacement in some cases.
The practice is located in the same building as Fruitport Chiropractic Center, owned by Steve Szatkowski.
He said he started looking into regenerative medicine a couple of years ago after hearing from his patients of the discomfort associated with procedures such as knee replacements.
Szatkowski said he wanted to bring this type of care to the community and interviewed several doctors to start the practice in the space next to his chiropractic practice since a doctor legally is needed to own a medical practice. He said he was looking for someone open to making a change.
Dr. Christopher Popp agreed to be the clinic’s owner and director. A nurse practitioner does most of the injecting. The practice began serving patients late last year.
Szatkowski calls stem cell injection the “treatment of the future.”
The treatment uses umbilical cord stem cells, which are nondifferentiated cells that could become cartilage or other cells. It typically is effective in about three months but could take up to a year to see results. The practice receives the cells from Salt Lake City-based Predictive Biotech.
The treatment typically is 90% effective, but he said the safety rate is “remarkable.” Unlike embryonic stem cells, which are illegal to use in the U.S. and may trigger an autoimmune response, umbilical stem cells are like a “blank slate.”
He said many other similar practices use cells from the pelvis or bone marrow, requiring a painful extraction procedure, and are not as reliable.
Doctors have been performing stem cell transplants — also known as bone marrow transplants — to treat several types of cancer and blood-related disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
He said the intent behind offering the treatment is to decrease the load on the health care system and give people options.
“The idea behind all of it is we need to push a change,” Szatkowski said.
Stem cell therapy for knees is typically several thousand dollars, while a total replacement is about $50,000. Insurance does not cover stem cell therapy. It may turn out to be a much better deal, depending on insurance deductibles, he said.
“It is an investment in their health,” he said.
Szatkowski said he believes one of the aspects keeping this type of stem cell treatment from gaining popularity has to do with how it will affect hospitals economically since the treatment is so much less expensive.
“That’s one of the reasons we're doing it because unless individual practices like this start popping up, there won't be a real good change,” Szatkowski said.
He said the two practices will collaborate, along with other providers, to create a health plan for each patient.
Szatkowski is a member of Advanced Medical Integration, a network of chiropractors, nurse practitioners, therapists and other health care professionals whose focus he said is to change the direction of health care.
“We need to get the compassion back in the industry,” he said.
Szatkowski said his building has room for four more units, and his goal is to increasingly bring integrative medicine into the community, working with functional medicine and rehab to treat such conditions as high blood pressure, heart disease and more.
He said he believes most medical conditions are related to poor diet and exercise and can be treated as such, oftentimes without prescription drugs.
He plans to eventually have a small gym in the building and offer meditation, yoga, nutrition and other services.
“I want to bring that in to help people make choices,” Szatkowski said.
When he began his chiropractic practice 35 years ago, he said he wanted to be involved with therapists and doctors and other providers. He said different philosophies and attitudes often kept that from happening in the past, but he thinks that’s changing.
“I don't have any turf issues. I just want to help people,” Szatkowski said.
He said he believes health care should be a team effort, which is why he’s working to include providers with varied expertise, focusing on results.
“I don't have the licensure to do these other things, and they don't have the knowledge to do the things that I do, so it’s time to play together,” Szatkowski said.
X-Cell Integrative Health has an open house scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on June 13 with a ribbon cutting ceremony set for 5:30 p.m.