4 Categories of Regenerative Medicine
Regenerative medicine and techniques are tools frequently used to help our own body heal itself. The goal of regenerative medicine is to enhance the body’s healing, growth, and renewal properties to decrease pain, increase function, and improve overall health. The following are four categories to accomplish these goals.
1.) Stimulate our body’s own natural healing process.
Includes prolotherapy, injections with barbotage, and possibly dry needling
Prolotherapy (proliferation therapy) is an injection of a mildly irritating substance, typically dextrose or sugar water, in and around a painful area with poor or slow healing, often with poor vascularization (blood supply). Placing this substance around the areas of concern (tendon insertions, ligaments, etc.) can cause local inflammation and encourage the body to heal. The body will often send cells to the area to remove the dextrose and stimulate the local healing process by laying down collagen, scar tissue, or other tissue that can help heal and stabilize the area.
Similarly, the technique of barbotagecan increases local bleeding and introduces red cells, white cells, and platelets to the injured area, assisting in the healing process.
2.) Transport our own specialized functional cells into injured areas.
Includes platelet-rich plasma and bone grafting
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is the resulting product of a sample of a patient’s own donated blood that is spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from other components of blood. The concentrated layer of platelet cells is reinjected into the injured area of the body that is causing pain and needs help healing. Platelet cells initiate local healing themselves while also releasing various hormones that recruit additional cells to the injury site to encourage repair and healing.
3.) Introduce biological adjuncts to create an optimal healing environment.
Includes vitamin supplements and hormone therapy
Using adjunctive treatments can improve healing by increasing the cellular and hormonal response or optimizing the nutritional environment for the cells. This can include nutritional supplementation, including vitamins and minerals. For example, vitamin D is an important hormone-like vitamin
essential for many growth and development functions.
4.) Stimulate undifferentiated cells to differentiate and specialize into cell types.
Includes placing undifferentiating cells (pluripotential) in regions to encourage a response for healing or tissue growth
Placing undifferentiated cells in various areas of the body with the appropriate stimulation can help the cells differentiate into the appropriate cells needed for treatment. For example, there are studies underway in which undifferentiated cells, often described as stem cells, can be placed in cardiac muscle in patients with weak hearts in hopes that the cells differentiate into cardiac cells, which can improve cardiac muscle function.
Additionally, undifferentiated cells can be placed in areas near tendons to aid in their function. They can be placed in areas to encourage bone growth or fusion. They can also be placed within damaged intervertebral discs, which can help some patients with back pain.
Read the full article from the Spring 2015 Journal.
By Michael W. Hasz, MD, FACS