We are told to treat our bodies as temples, because, “There are no second chances.” If a chronic illness occurs in our body, or something goes wrong, we are told that it is difficult to recover, especially as your age rises. But with regenerative medicine, more and more people are receiving the possibility of a second chance.
The American Association of Blood Banks defines regenerative medicine as, “The process of replacing or “regenerating” human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function.” There are many different types of regenerative medicine, as we will describe below, but the basis of their concepts is stimulating the body through natural means to increase your body’s healing factors. No matter which type of regenerative medicine you use, it will always stimulate your healing.
Dr. Sar Ahmed is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon that uses regenerative medicine to help his patients live healthier and better lives. His training at the Cleveland clinic in both hip and knee replacement/reconstruction as well as shoulder arthroscopy and replacement has given him a wide variety of education and experience in orthopedic procedures. You can learn more about him on his ‘about me’ page linked above. Together with Desert Orthopedics Center, Dr. Ahmed works and employs regenerative medicine processes to help his patients get second chances when their body becomes injured.
So what are these different types of regenerative medicine?
The first process we will discuss is prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is “based on the fact that when ligaments or tendons (connective tissue) are stretched or torn, the joint they are holding destabilizes and can become painful” (AOAPRM). Prolotherapy involves an injection of a solution, commonly glucose, that causes this tissue to become irritated. This stimulates the healing process and causes your body to heal the irritated and injured area much faster, creating a more permanently fixed region of the body, giving you a second chance at full rejuvenation.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is another type of regenerative medicine. In all of our blood you can find plasma, which consists of platelets, among other things, that can be used for regenerative medicine. Platelets consists of growth factors, special proteins that can speed up the healing process. PRP procedures involve taking your blood plasma with a much higher concentration of platelets than normal, and injecting it back into an irritated or injured area. This can greatly promote healing while also alleviating painful symptoms. It is most commonly used to solve injuries such as tennis elbow.
Stem cells, which you may have heard of, are cells that are pluripotent. That means that they don’t have a specialized use at their conception, but instead have the ability to change into any other cell depending on their environment (e.g. Fat, tissue or muscle). Stem cell therapy is used to renew and repair diseased tissue. Stem cells are taken from your body and administered into a damaged area and employ associated growth factors to help adapt their own function to heal your body.
Stem cells can be obtained from two different sources, bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue. These stem cells are obtained and processed prior to injecting back into the injured location. Newer interventions have even made it possible for Desert Ortho to cryogenically freeze and store bone marrow stem cells for potential future use!
Amniotic Growth Factors
Finally, there are amniotic growth factors. These are proteins that are present in the placenta/umbilical cord region of an embryonic fetus. These proteins are meant to both protect and nourish the fetus. Tissues and fluid are taken from the placenta region, and processed to retrieve the proteins that are necessary to the healing process. Once injected into your body, these amniotic growth factors can help stimulate the healing process, and can sometimes be used in unison with stem cells.
More on Regenerative Medicine:
While a natural way to heal your body seems great, there are downsides. Cost is a major factor in determining whether one is right for a regenerative medicine process. While there is a growing amount of research and literature on regenerative medicine, it is still in its early phase of development comparative to more established procedures. Because of this, insurance is much less likely to cover these processes, causing most costs to come from the patient’s pocket. This being said, Medicare has been starting to pay for many amniotic growth factor processes, as it is the most backed by solid research and doesn’t require a complicated procedure to perform.
With cost in mind, Dr. Ahmed doesn’t upsell people to convince them to purchase the most expensive procedure he offers. He understands that there is different literature for different processes, and that every case is specific. Dr. Ahmed believes that the most important thing between patient and doctor is communication, and together with his patients he will find the best way to treat them.
First and foremost, Dr. Ahmed says you must treat the underlying condition. A patient won’t come in with a broken arm and receive PRP or a stem cell treatment. Once the underlying condition is fixed and recalcitrant to treatment, then regenerative medicine becomes an option to help a condition from becoming a chronic issue.
As for the future of regenerative medicine, Dr. Ahmed is hopeful. Stem cells are in the process of “taking off”, but will probably not be the first option in treating a serious illness. As stated earlier, PRP is a cheaper procedure relative to regenerative medicine processes, and amniotic growth factor injections can sometimes be covered by Medicare. Regenerative medicine is truly an exciting market, and Dr. Ahmed thinks the future will tell us a lot about both it and medicine in general’s direction. He’s hopeful that as we advance into the future, we can learn more about chronic disease processes and help give more people second chances at pain free movement.
To learn more about regenerative medicine, you can check out Desert Ortho’s website, which has handy guides on the different medicinal processes: READ MORE
For how stem cells from apples are being used to combat aging, check out this article from HHN