Regenerative medicine is defined as the process of replacing or "regenerating" human tissue in order to restore normal biologic function. It turns out that the gradual breakdown of normal tissue due to factors like human aging and prior injury are some of the most common causes of pain (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke). Over the past 20 years, methods have been developed that use cells from your own body to initiate tissue repair and regeneration, thus reversing accumulated tissue damage over time. The major cells used in regenerative medicine are stem cellsandplatelet rich plasma (PRP). Unlike the fields of heart or liver regeneration, which are years to decades from mainstream clinical use, regenerative techniques to reverse musculoskeletal damage (arthritis, ligament injury, degenerative disc disease) are being used now.
Clinical trials supporting the use of regenerative medicine in humans have been reported since 2011. Studies as recent as 2017 (Akeda et al.) on platelet rich plasma injection for back pain found that 71% of study participants showed a 50% or greater reduction in their back pain, and 79% of patients showed reductions in their physical disability scores. Similar levels of effectiveness were observed when using stem cells to treat back pain. However, just as with most large health topics (effective dieting strategies, risks/benefits of aspirin for heart disease, or hormone therapy for menopause) results vary between studies.
We are encouraged about the future for regenerative therapies in the treatment of degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease of the spine. It's also safe to say that autologous stem cells (cells from one's own body) are most likely the safest form of stem cell therapy. However, as it currently stands, safety regulations for regenerative therapies are just now being adopted. For that reason, it's important for patients considering stem cell therapy or PRP to research any clinic or doctor offering these treatments. If you're interested in regenerative medicine, set up a free consult with a patient coordinator today--we can help you get set up with the best doctors in your area.