In this day and age, regenerative medicine is one of those terms we’ve all heard about but we may not be able to pinpoint or define in a precise manner. In this article, we’re going to set the record straight by explaining what is regenerative medicine and how it can help improve your health.
What Is Regenerative Medicine?
“Regenerative medicine […] treats injuries and diseases by harnessing the body’s own regenerative capabilities.”Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute
According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, regenerative medicine refers to the study of the “molecular, cellular, and developmental processes that control the development of new, healthy tissue”. Basically, it’s the study of the regeneration mechanisms at a cellular and molecular level.
Its purpose is to gain knowledge that can develop therapies capable of stimulating functional tissue regeneration of damaged human tissues that are incapable of regenerating by themselves. This means manipulating the cells and tissues towards a state of complete renewal (regeneration) instead of a state of scarring (fibrosis). So scientists are working on a way to make humans able to regenerate tissue at a cellular level, instead of simply scarring through a fibrosis process. Thus, regenerative medicine encompasses multiple disciplines like genetics, immunology, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, computer science, stem cell research, and more.
For example, why is it that when an organ or body part is damaged or lost, we only see scar tissue and not regeneration? Think of a severed finger. On a human being, the cellular process will result in fibrosis and scarring, instead of the regrowth of the severed limb. This is not the case for other species found in nature, like lizards who can lose their tail and grow it back, or spiders that can regrow any of their eight legs at any given point. In the human body, certain regenerative capabilities can be found. If part of the liver has been lost due to injury or disease, the organ is able to grow back to its original size. Skin, as an organ, is also able to renew and repair itself. So regenerative medicine is looking to find a way to enable regenerative capabilities on the tissues and organs that don’t have the ability to regenerate. The possibilities are endless: from cosmetics and skincare, to regrowing limbs lost to injuries, to a prolonged (and maybe endless) lifespan where all the organs are working perfectly because they are, simply put, new. This is what regenerative medicine hopes to accomplish.
Types Of Regenerative Medicine
Although regenerative medicine is a new field of study, there are a few types of treatments you can obtain. Here are the 3 most common types of regenerative medicine treatments:
Stem Cell Therapy
This procedure uses the body’s natural healing process to rebuild damaged tissue, heal injuries and eliminate pain in a faster and more effective manner. Its purpose is to target the underlying source of pain without recurring to surgery or medical prescriptions.
However, stem cell therapy is still considered experimental. Euro Stem Cell states that in spite of “an enormous amount of research being undertaken there are still disappointingly few new safe and effective treatments available to patients. There is high expectation on stem cell research but not yet high delivery of stem cell treatments. Partly this is because complex diseases which are currently incurable require complex treatments (often with a personalised aspect).”
PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)
Normally used for spinal conditions, arthritis, and orthopaedic conditions, this treatment is also non-surgical. The process uses the patient’s own platelets in a direct injection to damaged ligaments, tendons, and joints in order to promote healing and tissue repair. WebMD states that “PRP injections are used to treat torn tendons, tendinitis, muscle injuries, arthritis-related pain, and joint injuries.” However, “they’re becoming more common for cosmetic procedures, too. For example, dermatologists and hair replacement experts use PRP injections to treat a type of hair loss called androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, which affects men and women. And some dermatologists provide PRP treatments for the face.”
This type of regenerative medicine aims to strengthen weak connective tissues through injections. In this process, medications are injected into the injured musculoskeletal body part in order to promote tissue regeneration. According to Medical News Today, “medical professionals who support the use of prolotherapy believe that the strengthened joints will mean the pain is reduced. Also, the improved strength of the joint will help with stability and improve overall movement and function of the back and joints.”
The main difference between prolotherapy and medications is that prolotherapy is an all-natural, permanent treatment, since it depends on the body repairing itself to reduce pain in the long term, while pain relievers only provide temporary relief.
Where Regenerative Medicine Be Applied?
Like we’ve already mentioned, regenerative medicine has tons of possible applications. But the three main ones are tissue repair, cell repair and cellular therapy.
The purpose behind this application is to regenerate the entire human tissue, instead of entering a fibrosis stage which will result in scarring.
Our cells are constantly “dying” and “regenerating”. However, this “copy of a copy” process can result in cell injury, which is when a cell is damaged and begins to behave differently. This can be due to many factors, but it’s one of the causes behind two of society’s biggest concerns: ageing and cancer. Regenerative medicine aims to help in this process by ensuring the cell repair process goes smoothly.
This type of regenerative medicine consists of transplanting human cells to replace or repair damaged tissue and cells.
Regenerative medicine has countless applications and can help treat conditions like knee & back pain, disc herniations, fibromyalgia, joint pain, and even fractures. At Edge Physical Medicine, our mission is to ensure the well being and happiness of our patients through a large number of treatments to accommodate every need. Learn more about our treatments or book an appointment here.