After Stem Cell Treatment for AVN, High School Soccer Player Returns to the Field
2 May 2014
When 15 year-old Natasha Merangoli of Orlando was diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis, or AVN (a condition that disrupts blood supply to a bone) in her ankle, her world stopped. The high school soccer star had hopes of continuing with her sport through college and into a professional league. Instead, three doctors left her with no hope and one piece of advice regarding her injury: "change sports." For Natasha, the AVN diagnosis was heart-braking. For her parents, Natasha's diagnosis drove them to find a different solution. That's when the family found Dr. Dennis Lox, a regenerative medicine specialist in Clearwater who specializes in the use of stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures that can help the body repair itself. After hearing what Dr. Lox had to say about her ankle and stem cell therapy as an option, they chose that route as ankle fusion certainly would have ended her soccer career. Key points about and AVN and stem cells: - Stem cells are harvested from the patient's body - In Natasha’s case, stem cells were harvested from her midsection - Stem cells are injected into the area of AVN where the bone can repair itself - Natahsa’s other options were joint replacement or fusion – neither of which would have allowed her to play soccer again Natasha's treatment took one-day, and involved Dr. Lox harvesting Natasha's stem cells from her abdomen and injecting them into her ankle. After a six-month recovery, Natasha is back - playing soccer on her school's varsity team. She's a top-scorer, and her prospects are as bright as they were before her AVN diagnosis. With her new-found hope, Natasha has her sights set on one goal in particular - soccer at the professional level. Natasha is currently being scouted by division I colleges. “Natasha’s case was one of the most rewarding in my career,” said Dr. Dennis Lox, an expert in sports and regenerative medicine. “It was so fulfilling to give a patient and athlete an alternative destiny. The destiny she wanted. Stem cells, in this case, made it possible for Natasha to follow her dreams.” Thinking her ankle pain would go away, Natasha played through it. She described it as like being stabbed from the inside out. Her orthopedic surgeons diagnosed her as having avascular necrosis (AVN) yet neither suggested stem cells as a possible course of treatment. Avascular Necrosis (AVN) sometimes referred to as osteonecrosis is an uncommon disorder in which the blood supply to the bone becomes disrupted, leading to bone cell death or necrosis. The entire story of Natasha’s injury and recovery ran on Orlando's Fox 35 news. The news video story on Natasha and Dr. Lox may be seen on You can watch the video here.