Regenerative medicine is an exciting field of study right now, as researchers continue to learn more about the human body’s capacity to heal itself. Some areas are well-researched and the power of regeneration at the cellular level is proven.
There are different areas of study in the field of regenerative medicine. The two most common are stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments. Both types of therapies are available at Osteopathic Healing Center, and here’s what you need to know.
Stem cell therapy is currently one of the most intense areas of study in medicine. Researchers are examining it in the context of curing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and host of other chronic conditions. As of now, the most successful use of stem cell therapy is in treating certain types of soft tissue injuries, such as tendon tears and repetitive use injuries.
Stem cells are sometimes referred to as master cells, because they can become other types of cells in a process called differentiation. You might think of them as blanks or building blocks. Stem cells also have the ability to divide and reproduce themselves.
There are different types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are found in human embryos, and there are umbilical cord blood stem cells which are used to treat a number of diseases of the blood. Amniotic stem cells are located in amniotic fluid, and there are also induced pluripotent stem cells, which have been grown in a lab. The most common stem cells, and those that Dr. Spiegel uses, are found in your blood and bone marrow.
The theory behind stem cell therapy is that stem cells can be placed near the injured tissue in your body, and they will adapt and help heal that tissue. For example, if you have an Achilles tendon injury, Dr. Spiegel extracts stem cells from your body, then injects them at the site of your injury.
Another area where stem cell therapy has been effective is in the management of osteoarthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, the tissues in the affected joints are slowly degenerating. Stem cell injections may help stimulate new cell growth in those tissues and prolong the life of the joint, even delaying or eliminating the need for a joint replacement.
The stem cells kickstart your body’s healing response, replacing injured cells and regenerating new cells. The risks associated with the therapy are very low because the stem cells are your own, so there’s little chance your body will reject them. And the procedure is minimally invasive because there are no incisions.
One area of study related to stem cell therapy that’s exciting and full of potential is exosome research. You might imaging that exosomes are like cellular water balloons. A stem cell might package up some of its most healing and beneficial stuff, then essentially toss it to another cell to use.
The use of exosomes is an emerging treatment, and is being studied in the context of several different applications, particularly neurodegenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
PRP therapy is another type of regenerative medicine. There are some similarities between how PRP works and how stem cell therapy works, so the two are sometimes confused. However, platelets are a specialized type of blood cell, whereas stem cells can become skin, tissue, blood, or other types of cells.
You may want to think of platelets as the foot soldiers in your body’s healing army. Platelets contain growth factors that stimulate your body to repair and regenerate damaged tissues. If you cut your finger, platelets are responsible for the clotting that stops the bleeding, and they regulate how your cells divide and regenerate.
Your blood is complex and contains red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, water, and several other components. When you get PRP therapy, some of your blood is drawn and goes through a special process that separates the various components. Dr. Spiegel then injects the concentrated plasma, with all those healing platelets, where you need to be healed.
PRP can be used effectively to treat many soft tissue injuries, from tendinopathy to arthritis. It provides pain relief, reduces inflammation, and improves mobility.
If you’d like to learn more about regenerative medicine and discuss whether it may be a good alternative for you, book an appointment with Dr. Spiegel. Just call us at Osteopathic Center for Healing in Rockville, Maryland, or click the “request appointment” button here on the website.