How does regenerative medicine work? I am often asked this question by my patients. The body has an innate capacity to heal by replacing dying or injured cells and rejuvenating itself. We have this capacity at any age. The goal of regenerative medicine is to restore structure and function of a damaged tissue or an organ by using the body’s innate ability to heal. This is different from most modern medical treatment modalities which only manage conditions without any potential to actually heal. For example, if you have osteoarthritis and you take ibuprofen to reduce the pain and inflammation or you receive an injection into a joint with a compound such as a steroid or a lubricating agent.
Stem cell and other regenerative medicine treatments are a complex subject, because there are many different types of treatments and the number of conditions that can be treated is vast. I would like to discuss just a few treatments that we perform as a starter and discuss more in future blogs.
Let’s start with osteoarthritis of the knee, hip or shoulder joints. As we age, we are all going to develop varying degrees of osteoarthritis of the joints. It is part of the aging process due to the normal wear and tear that our joints undergo as we go through life. Some people have it more in the hips, some people have it more in the knees and some people have it more in the hands. It is a very common malady of humans. Regenerative medicine stem cell treatments, such as autologous bone marrow derived stem cells, are aimed at helping to restore structure and function, not just reducing inflammation or blocking pain receptors in the brain. That means that the joint is going to work better and it is not going to be as painful. These are safe and effective minimally invasive outpatient procedures that harness the healing power of your own body’s stem cells.
Degenerative disc disease is a condition that effects most people as we age. It can also be present in relatively young individuals due to a variety of causes such as trauma “back injuries”, poor body mechanics and repetitive heavy lifting. Back pain is the second most common reason why people visit a doctor in the United States. If left untreated, disc degeneration can lead to “arthritis of the spine” and spinal stenosis, both of which are painful, debilitating and difficult to treat conditions. Surgery for the treatment of disc degeneration and spinal stenosis usually involves spinal fusion, which has a high failure rate over time, has a significant risk and is not guaranteed to improve the condition. This is why we are very fortunate to have the option of autologous bone marrow derived stem cell treatments for degenerative disc disease. It is a safe outpatient procedure that does not involve surgery or significant post procedure down time. The procedure involves taking a small sample of your own bone marrow under local anesthesia and injecting it into a degenerative disc. This is a breakthrough of modern medicine that offers us a way to treat disc degeneration before it progresses to a chronic debilitating condition.
Hair loss, is another very common issue, particularly in men. It may not be a health issue, but it is something that bothers a lot of people. Regenerative medicine treatments can help hair follicles that are still alive to produce thicker hair and more hair. If the follicle is dead and totally gone, nothing is going to regrow a follicle. But, if the follicle is still there, even if one little tiny thin hair is coming out, regenerative medicine treatments, such as ozone, PRP or peptide scalp injections, can help that follicle produce thicker hair and more hairs per follicle. This is an office outpatient procedure that does not require surgery or the ongoing application of any external products.
I would like to end by discussing common neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and peripheral neuropathy. Both of these conditions can be improved by regenerative medicine treatments when other mainstream medical treatments have not resulted in improvement. Let’s take dementia today for example. One very common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Many doctors throughout the world have had excellent success in treating this condition with a regenerative medicine treatment known as neuroregenesis. It is a safe office outpatient procedure which is performed under local anesthesia and does not involve any injection into the brain. Though not a cure for the disease, noticeable and measurable positive outcomes usually occur. This treatment can address significant deterioration of brain dysfunction as well as earlier stages of forgetfulness and age related declining brain function. It has also been used by many physicians to help improve some of the deficits that are present after a stroke. The treatment has been able to bring many people who are severely limited back into a more normal life and a more normal interaction with their families.
The important thing to remember is that the goal of stem cell treatments is to restore structure and function of damaged tissues and organs. It works in part by the body’s innate ability to heal and rejuvenate. It is a very powerful and useful medical breakthrough.