Why is Regenerative Medicine So Revolutionary?
Regenerative medicine for musculoskeletal injury is a new, rapidly evolving field of medicine where the body rebuilds and regenerates itself. Regenerative medicine has been thrust into the limelight due to high profile athletes such as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, golfer Tiger Woods and football player Hines Ward utilizing regenerative treatment methods rather than undergoing surgery.
High-profile athletes garner all the attention when it comes to regenerative medicine, but they are not the only ones to benefit. Athletes, middle-age and elderly folks can certainly benefit from the variety of regenerative modalities that can seemingly turn back the clock and prevent the need for interventional procedures.
Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells
Stem cell research is nothing new. Stem cell therapy has been used in clinical settings for over 70 years for treatment on serious conditions like leukemia. In terms of pain management, stem cell research and therapy is still in its nascent form, but doctors are hopeful stem cells can take pain management and treatment to the next level.
That is what compels R3 to participate in research that is cutting edge, safe and has the potential to heal damaged soft tissue and cartilage conservatively with outpatient procedures. Anecdotally, it has helped hundreds of athletes get back on the field quickly participating in high level competition after sustaining ligament and tendon injuries.
One of the most recent regenerative medicine techniques utilizes amniotic fluid. The membrane is particularly effective for treating wounds, and is used extensively in plastic surgery and ophthalmology. The application of amniotic fluid to musculoskeletal conditions such as tennis elbow, ligament injury, rotator cuff tendonitis and arthritis is currently generating a lot of discussion. Small studies have shown promising results in treating some of these conditions, and the larger study being conducted by R3 will help shed light on the true benefits.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is the procedure many athletes are undergoing in an effort to treat various conditions including tendonitis, arthritis, chronic joint inflammation, cartilage defects, and muscle strains. Platelet-rich plasma therapy uses the patients’ own blood to control pain and increase functionality.
The blood is centrifuged and separated into three layers – the serum, platelets and white blood cells, and red blood cells. The platelets release over 1,000 biologically active proteins that facilitate tissue regeneration. There have been several human and animal studies that have shown very promising results, such as the 2012 study out of the Hospital for Special Surgery showing its benefit for knee arthritis. Another study showed that a platelet serum injected into a damaged Achilles tendon in a laboratory animal significantly increased tendon strength and stiffness as well as increased tendon strength and fast-twitch responses.
When Hines Ward was playing wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he sustained a medial collateral ligament sprain in the playoffs. The next day, he was injected with platelet rich plasma. Within two weeks, he returned to make two catches to help the Steelers win the Super Bowl.
“I think it really helped me. The injury that I had was a severe injury, maybe a four- or six-week injury. In order for me to go out there and play in two weeks, I don’t think anyone with a grade-2 M.C.L. sprain gets back that fast,” he said about the PRP procedure.
Fat and Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cell Injections
These are outpatient procedures that involve harvesting the patient’s own tissue with immediate processing to concentrate stem cells and growth factors. The patient’s tissue is then injected during the same setting into the area of concern.
Fat Derived Stem Cell procedures take between two and two and a half hours to harvest and process the tissue. Bone Marrow stem cell procedures take about 30 minutes. R3 currently offers the Bone Marrow variety with a research study for the procedure evaluating its effectiveness for both spinal arthritis along with extremity arthritis. More information can be obtained HERE.
Osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions are largely a result of aging. What makes the field of regenerative medicine so exciting is that preliminary data is showing the possibility of turning back the biological clock in these joints, allowing patients to experience rejuvenation and an increased quality of life. As research and technology continue to evolve, it may be possible to create a cadre of highly effective regenerative medicine therapies that could be used along the entire spectrum of a patients’ condition.