Regenerative Medicine (RM) is an emerging field within medicine that deals with biological therapies intended to heal human tissues and organs through cellular regeneration. Many people will be familiar with the potential of stem cell therapies, which fall under the umbrella of RM.
Over the last number of decades, science has made many discoveries about how our bodies continually turn over new cells, the sources of those cells, and what stimulates them to grow. RM looks at the therapeutic applications of this knowledge to help heal degenerated or injured tissues in conditions such as arthritis and sports injuries. The potential goes way beyond orthopedic medicine and research is being conducted in the areas of cardiovascular disease and degenerative neurological conditions such as Lou Gehrigs Disease (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s, to name a few.
These therapeutic applications pose a huge potential benefit to an aging population who are coming face to face with many of these degenerative conditions.
Did you know that there are some simple and natural regenerative therapies that are currently in use by professional athletes likes Tiger Woods, Koby Bryant, Hines Ward, and Alex Rodriguez?
Prolotherapy is an extremely simple yet effective form of RM for joint and other musculoskeletal issues whose efficacy has been studied in double blind placebo controlled studies. Prolotherapy or “proliferative” therapy uses simple natural ingredients, such as concentrated dextrose sugar and / sodium morrhuate (a natural derivative of cod liver oil) to induce a localized irritation at the site of injury or degenerative condition such as arthritis. This action is thought to be very important as it induces the cells of the injured tissues to proliferate and strengthen. Over a series of a few treatments performed over a few months time, many clinical trials have shown a general trend of positive outcomes for conditions such as chronic, non specific low back pain, sacroiliac pain, knee osteoarthritis, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and hip tendinitis. For these chronic conditions that can cause a significant impairment in quality of life in affected individuals, prolotherapy can be a safe, effective solution to decreasing pain and helping them resume a healthy active lifestyle. According to meta-analysis of current prolotherapy research, most areas of treatment have received a Level B for evidence of effectiveness for these conditions. More thorough, well- designed studies need to be done for it to be conclusive, but prolotherapy does appear to be a safe, viable option with some good evidence as to its effectiveness for these conditions.
The second regenerative therapy I would like to introduce is Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP. PRP is a novel RM modality which uses a concentrated portion of the patient’s own blood to treat many of the same degenerative conditions that prolotherapy treats. Platelets contain the body’s growth factors that help to repair and regrow injured tissues. By concentrating and re-injecting these growth factors into injured or degenerative joints, tendons and ligaments, we can promote accelerated healing and regeneration to these tissues.
As clinical trials of PRP have slowly emerged, the most promising results appear to be in its use for osteoarthritis of the knee and chronic tennis elbow. Many other orthopedic applications are currently being studied.
I will do a future blog on the therapeutic potential of fat based stem cells.