Regenerative Medicine: Everything You Need to Know

Regenerative medicine focuses on the human cells, using functional tissues found within the human body to replace or repair organ or tissue function that has been lost. A relatively new field of study, regenerative medicine seeks to treat injuries, illnesses, and diseases by using the body’s own regenerative capabilities. There are various disciplines within regenerative medicine, but for this guide’s purpose, we are going to focus on why regenerative medicine is important, the conditions it can treat, and some of the various therapies within this branch.

What is Regenerative Medicine?  

Before we go any further, let’s look at what regenerative medicine really is. First and foremost, regenerative medicine is the process of replacing – or regenerating, if you will – human tissues, cells, and organs in order to establish normal functionality. Through regenerative medicine, we are able to bring new life into damaged tissues and organs. Additionally, regenerative medicine can be used to grow tissues and organs in labs with the intention of implanting them when the body cannot heal on its own. Albeit a relatively new branch of medicine, the more we learn about the benefits of regenerative medicine, the higher the level of care we are able to bring to our patients.

There are several different therapies used within regenerative medicine, some of which you may be more familiar with than others. Stem cell therapy is perhaps the most widely used therapies. Other clinical therapies used include immunomodulation therapy and tissue engineering, both of which we will discuss in more detail later in the guide. The main takeaway is to keep in mind that the practice of regenerative medicine typically refers to therapies and applications that repair or replace portions or whole tissues, such as bone, cartilage, blood vessels, and skin.

How Does Stem Cell Therapy Apply to Regenerative Medicine? 

The body is made up of more than 37 trillion cells, each of which has a unique role. We refer to cells as “stem” cells when they have the ability to divide and reproduce, creating cells of all different types. As you can imagine, the more we learn about stem cells, the more fascinated we are. They have the incredible ability to divide in order to replenish other cells, repairing whatever area of the body is in need. Each time a stem cell divides, a new cell can either remain a stem cell or become a different type of cell that is more specialized, such as a red blood cell, brain cell, or muscle cell.

When it comes to regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy is very integral. Where the goal of regenerative medicine is to promote organ, bone, and tissue repair and regeneration, stem cell therapy helps turn this into a reality by using stem cells to promote healing within the body. If it helps, you can look at regenerative medicine as the overarching idea, and stem cell therapy as the concept that makes the notion of healing actually happen. Both regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy encourage the repair response of damaged, injured, diseased, or dysfunctional tissue. Through regenerative medicine, we are able to manipulate stem cells into specialty cells, supporting and encouraging the body’s natural healing process.

What is Tissue Engineering? 

Tissue engineering is another component of regenerative medicine that is worth discussing. Tissue engineering is the use of a combination of cells, engineering materials, and biochemical factors to either improve or replace the function of damaged tissues or organs. Engineered tissue typically comes from a synthetic structure that includes human cells and that is then implanted in the patient. While the source of these cells varies, they are found within the patient. Some of the uses of engineered tissue include replacing any hard (cartilage/bone) or soft (skin/veins/arteries/organs) tissue that has been damaged either by disease or injury. Today, tissue engineering is used extensively. Here at Texas Partners Healthcare Group, we rely on tissue engineering as well as stem cell therapy as two of our most effective forms of regenerative medicine. We have seen great success with both and are encouraged by this ability to offer our patients different, viable treatment solutions to both common and rare conditions of the body.

Conditions Treated with Regenerative Medicine  

Regenerative medicine is effective in treating a wide range of conditions, some of which we will discuss below. By relying on various modalities such as stem cell therapy, regenerative medicine has changed the way in which we treat some of the most debilitating conditions. Where more traditional forms of medicine and therapy focus on treating a patient’s symptoms, regenerative medicine delivers outcomes through tissue engineering, cellular therapies, artificial organs, and other medical devices. Let’s now take a look at some of the conditions treated with regenerative medicine:

Cervical Radiculopathy

This condition occurs when the nerve root in the cervical spine is damaged or becomes inflamed. When this occurs, it can lead to a change in neurological function. Some of the most common neurological deficits that occur as a result of cervical radiculopathy include numbness, weakness, and altered reflexes.

These symptoms can spread from the neck into the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers.  Many patients report a pins-and-needles tingling sensation as well as pain that can range from burning to achiness or even a shock-like feeling. Additional symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include lack of coordination, especially in the hands. There are numerous common treatment options for this condition, including a combination of pain medications and powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. Physical therapy has also been proven effective, as it can bring gentle cervical traction and mobilization to the area and reduce pain at the same time. That being said, one of the most effective ways to treat cervical radiculopathy is through stem cell therapy. Because stem cell therapy works by replacing or repairing damaged cells, it can support the spine and reverse the damage that has been caused to the nerve root. This is a relatively new form of treatment for cervical radiculopathy that you should discuss with your Texas Partners Healthcare Group. As a leading regenerative medicine center, we strive to provide our patients with the information they need to make the right decision for their health.

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back and neck pain for people worldwide. The discs are the soft, rubbery pads that can be found between the vertebrae of the spine. These discs are what allow the vertebrae to flex and bend, while also acting as a shock absorber. A disc herniates or ruptures when the center nucleus pushes through the outer edge of the disc, putting pressure on the spinal nerves. These nerves are extremely sensitive and are what lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. For many people with disc issues, pain medications or surgery seem like the only solution. However, in recent years we’ve seen just how beneficial regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy can be.

Stem cell therapy has been proven to maximize the function of these discs and the spine in general, helping the patient return to their normal, pain-free life. Stem cell therapy, for one, can repair the damaged disc or facet joint, restore function, rehydrate the disc, and alleviate chronic pain once and for all. Here at Texas Partners Healthcare Group, we believe in offering our patients with solutions that actually work. While regenerative medicine may be lesser known to the general public than other more traditional forms of treatment, it is a safer option that will help you find relief from pain. We understand just how impactful a herniated disc can be on your overall health and wellness, which is why we offer stem cell therapy to treat sciatic pain.

Sciatica

Sciatica is numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain that occurs anywhere along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the hips and buttocks and backs of legs to the feet. It is the single longest and widest nerve in the entire body. When this nerve is compressed, it can result in debilitating pain. In most cases, sciatica only affects one side of the body at a time.

It usually occurs when something irritates the nerve root in the lower back, such as a bulging or herniated disc in the lower spine. However, a number of other common conditions can cause sciatica. Generally, sciatica goes away on its own after a few weeks. If at-home remedies do not ease the pain, it may be time to explore other options. Recently, we’ve seen how effective stem cell transplantation is at treating sciatica. It works by isolating stem cells from bone marrow and other tissue, then transplanting these cells into the sciatic nerve to regenerate the damaged nerve.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis – also referred to as degenerative joint disease – is the most common chronic condition of the joints. It occurs because of regular wear and tears over time, which means the most common people facing osteoarthritis are older adults. Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. While OA is most common in people over the age of 65, there are numerous common risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the condition, such as obesity, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, weak thigh muscles, and genes.

With more than 27 million people in the United States living with osteoarthritis, it is definitely a problem that must be addressed. OS is a chronic condition for which there is no cure, however, there are certain treatments that have been quite effective in managing the disease. One of the most recent treatments for OA is stem cell therapy. We have seen firsthand how stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine has been used to treat various forms of osteoarthritis, including the knee.

Degenerative Disc Disease

When the back is young and healthy, the discs allow for bending, flexion, and twisting. You can look at the discs as shock absorbers if you will. Over time, these discs become susceptible to regular wear and tear of age. While nearly everyone will show some signs of wear and tear on the discs, in some cases these discs may collapse completely and cause the facet joints to rub against one another, resulting in osteoarthritis or other common conditions. If you are someone who has pain because of these discs, you are considered to have degenerative disc disease.

One of the biggest misnomers with degenerative disc disease is that it is a disease when it is actually a condition that occurs when pain is caused by a damaged disc. There are several reasons why these discs begin to degenerate, including from age, a drying out of the disc, daily activities that cause tears in the outer core of the disc, or other injuries that can lead to swelling, soreness, and instability. Unfortunately, the discs often take a great deal to heal because there is very little blood supply to them. This is why, in the past, it was believed that the discs could not heal themselves and instead had to be repaired by way of surgery. However, regenerative medicine has changed the way we view degenerative disc disease and is today considered an emerging treatment. Stem cell therapy can help with degenerative disc disease by repopulating the degenerate nucleus pulposus (NP). This is accomplished by injecting stem cells directly into this area and the damaged discs, repairing, degenerating and in turn helping the patient find relief.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain that occurs when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot all the way to the heel bone and toes becomes inflamed. Some of the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, including a stabbing pain first thing in the morning that decreases as you move throughout the day. Typically, this pain returns after long periods of standing or after getting up from sitting for a while. While everyone can get plantar fasciitis, it is most common in runners, people who are overweight, and people who wear shoes with inadequate support.

There are numerous causes of plantar fasciitis, including undue tension or stress placed on the arch of the foot. Also, small tears can occur in the fascia (deep tissue) or the fascia can become irritated or inflamed from repetitive stretching. That being said, there is often no known cause of plantar fasciitis. There are certain risk factors that may increase your chance of developing plantar fasciitis, such as age, performing certain types of exercise (such as long-distance running, ballet, and aerobic dance), being flat-footed or having a high arch, obesity, and occupations that keep you on your feet. While it can be tempting to ignore the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, doing so could result in chronic heel pain.

As mentioned, the symptoms of plantar fasciitis typically start first thing in the morning, making it difficult or even impossible to get out of bed. Some of the traditional treatments include stretching and ice treatment or cortisone injections to temporarily reduce the inflammation. However, these treatments usually do not provide permanent relief. Stem cell therapy, on the other hand, can treat plantar fasciitis long-term. Stem cell therapy is particularly effective in treating those who have tears in the plantar fascia (that long band of tissue we mentioned earlier). Additionally, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy has also been quite beneficial when done in conjunction with stem cell therapy. Both PRP and stem cell therapy initiate tissue repair by releasing healing cells into the damaged fascia, promoting growth and healing.

Torn Ligaments or Muscles

Many people do not realize this, but a sprain is actually a torn ligament. Ligaments are the bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones together. On the other hand, a strain is a stretch or tear in a muscle or tendon. This difference is important for numerous reasons, especially when it comes to seeking treatment. Muscle strains are extremely common and can affect virtually anywhere in the body. In most cases, both sprains and strains heal over time with a little bit of rest. Perhaps the most common type of sprain affects the ankle, with more than 25,000 people spraining an ankle every day.

The signs of both sprains (or torn ligaments) and muscle strains are quite similar, with pain and inflammation being present in the injured area. Depending on how bad the sprain or strain is, you may require no other treatment than at-home remedies. However, if you have a serious torn ligament or muscle, it may be time to talk to Texas Partners Healthcare Group. We offer stem cell therapy and other alternative treatments for these types of conditions and are happy to discuss our process with you. We understand that both tendon and ligament injuries are a major challenge for people, especially athletes and those who work on their feet. While a relatively new approach, stem cell therapy has been quite successful with these types of injuries. In most cases, the stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow or fat tissues and then implanted into the tendons or muscles in question. Stem cells aim to encourage the body’s natural healing process, allowing the ligaments or muscles to repair themselves over time.

How is Regenerative Medicine Used? 

Regenerative medicine is an extremely promising field that aims to restore function and structure to a wide range of damaged tissues and organs. The overarching goal of regenerative medicine is to offer a viable solution that can cure everything from the most common conditions to those that have previously been thought untreatable.

Right now, regenerative medicine is being used to solve many common problems that plague the medical field, including the shortage of organs available through donation. Through advancements in modern medicine, we are able to find alternative solutions that can not only give patients long-term relief but save lives. We have seen real progress not only into organ transplantation, but the treatment of diseases and conditions that affect the everyday quality of life.

Why is Regenerative Medicine Important?  

This question can largely be answered above, but there are other reasons why regenerative medicine is important, too. In a nutshell, regenerative medicine is a game-changer for the world of medicine. This is because it has the potential to completely heal damaged tissues and organs, providing people all over the world with hope and viable solutions to conditions they thought were beyond repair. While regenerative medicine itself isn’t new, the advances in developmental and cell biology have opened new doors and unlocked opportunities. Regenerative medicine rejuvenates, heals, and supports the body through tissue engineering, stem cell therapy, and other treatments. To learn more about why regenerative medicine is important or how Texas Partners Healthcare Group uses it at our clinic, please contact us today. Our knowledgeable staff at our premier pain management clinic in Frisco is here to answer your questions and ensure you have a complete understanding of the benefits of regenerative medicine, including the conditions it can treat.