Independent Study May Term 2019: Stem Cells and Pain

This is an Independent Study Course in which the student will research and complete a research paper for publication.  While publication is not an absolute requirement for the successful completion of the course, the student is strongly urged to have the paper published with our guidance…it is a nice additional credential to have.

The paper should follow the usual form for a research paper as found in various biomedical journals as to the parts, and as to referencing.  The following helpful resources are included below, and although they are used primarily with our students doing a thesis, the approaches contained are relevant to any scientific paper.

It is important to understand that there are two kinds of research reports: Lab-based, and Review Articles.  As your paper is necessarily a review article, it is important to understand that the format is slightly different from a lab-based paper in that the usual Materials and Methods section describing equipment and sources of biologicals is omitted, and replaced in some cases with how you went about your researching of the literature. Typically for a review article, the Materials and Methods section is very brief, and some authors eliminate it altogether.

Time for Completion

This course runs for the May Term (four months). Try to have your paper done within the first three months so that we can concentrate on publication thereafter.

Assigned Topic

The Assigned Topic for this course is:
Stem Cells For Pain: A Physician’s Primer
and the purpose of the paper is to review what procedures using adult stem cells are currently in play for the treatment of pain, how stem cells are used, how they are sourced (from blood or fatty tissue, cord blood or fetal (non-embryonic) tissue.  Please emphasize what is happening in the US although feel free for comparison to study and include what may be occurring internationally, particularly in Thailand and Panama. As a hint, we are aware that some orthopedic surgeons, as well as chiropractors in the US,  are using platelet-rich fractions or stromal vascular fractions to alleviate pain and as an alternative treatment to surgery. [e.g. ]

You should concentrate BOTH on a regular literature search (Google Scholar is very helpful); as well as investigating various websites which usually have a lot of information as well. See for example the Centeno-Schultz Clinic

Study Guides and Helpful Materials 

(1) Sample Thesis Instructions, showing how to start by taking a quick survey to assess current status and develop your starting point.

Thesis Instructions-How to Write a Paper

(2) Sample “Review Articles”:

Sample Review Article 1

Sample Review Article 2

Sample Review Article 3

(3) Publishing Ideas

Some Possible Publishing Outlets


Staff tips and guidance.

(A) Be sure to stay in close touch with your Advisor/Instructor, especially early on to be sure you get on the right track.

(B) As noted in the Thesis instructions, Part 3A, the first thing that is needed is some preliminary research (not all of it) so you know where your starting point is. For example, has this paper already been done? Has it been done but needs updating? what kind of info is out there for a physician that wants to enter the stem cell field specifically to offer pain relief procedures? What websites can you find (US and international) offering the services, what sources (i.e. fatty tissue or what) are in use/popular, what specific procedures are being used. Don’t try to complete the whole mission at this point, you just take a run at it, so that you can collect your thoughts about how to move forward.

(C) After your first run at the literature, then you should be able to roughly define the status and what your paper can do to summarize the current state of knowledge or how to collect literature sources and pull them all together in one piece  so that someone can grab your material and move forward and readily understand the current state of stem cell therapy for pain.

(D) As you prepare and write, don’t forget to follow your title…it will help to keep you on track.


So, the basic way forward is:

(1) Take a quick review and inventory of what is out there right now, what can you find quickly to help you as a physician start down this path. [About stem cell therapy for pain]

(2) Summarize briefly the current state of the literature as you found it or as you understand it.

(3) Define the questions to be asked in your paper: like the current state of procedures; what is safety; what is the efficacy, what types of pain have been treated etc.

(4) Once your Preliminary Review is approved and it appears you are headed in the right direction, you are then released to begin your further research and work-up to answer the questions you posed.

(5) The form of the paper should follow the usual format for reviews, and you probably have a med journal around that you can copy as to form.

(6) You submit some drafts along the way, we review and comment, and eventually get you into final form.

(7) Length not important one way or the other, but must be less than 20 pages including refs or difficult to get any journal to publish. Do not create for yourself a grandiose project, short and tight is what is needed, hitting the high points and not rambling on. PLEASE rely on your mentor/instructor for guidance.

(8) Best to be set up with Grammarly,  a free program for spell checking and grammar corrections.