Many new techniques are emerging within the area of regenerative medicine which focus on therapies that can support the body’s own renewal and cellular regenerative process. Historically, hormone replacement therapy administered to restore optimal levels of hormones such as DHEA, and testosterone have have been used to restore cellular restoration potential. While these remain essential tools in the area of regenerative medicine, other longstanding adjunctive therapies, especially in tendon and connective tissue regenerative needs, remain crucial. Two therapies often used in combination are prolotherapy and neural therapy. Prolotherapy primarily uses proliferant medications such as glucose as an injection to help with tendon and connective tissue restoration by enhancing the body’s natural inflammatory process to facilitate tissue repair. Neural therapy works in a similar mechanism but also is supportive of the autonomic nervous system function which supplies the nerve input to help with tissue healing.
New therapies that can be used solely, or adjunctively, include PRP or platelet-rich plasma injections. PRP is a FDA-approved injection technique which uses a sample of the patient’s own blood which has been purified by a special centrifuge to contain highly concentrated growth factors that are present in platelets. These growth factors include platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) which attracts immune system cells to the area and stimulates proliferation, and transforming growth factor-8 (TGF-8), which is a major cellular healing factor that supports cellular maturation. Also present are vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which helps to establish a new blood supply to the tissue and fibroblast growth factor (FGF), which supports the growth of cells involved with collagen and cartilage repair.
Most recent is the inclusion of autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSC). Mesenchymal stem cells are derived from a fat sample from the abdominal area (usually) of the patient. This is accomplished by numbing the area and using a syringe to aspirate the fat cell tissue. This “fat sample” is then placed in a specialized centrifuge designed to extract stem cells. The stem cells from the patient are then reinjected in areas of the body that need help with healing such as joints inclusive of osteoarthritis and knee injuries inclusive of meniscal tears. Recently, more cosmetic field applications are combining stem cells and autologous fat to be used as fillers in facial enhancements to create the so-called natural facelift in addition to injections in the scalp for hair thinning or balding tendency. In addition, adjunctive uses for stem cell PRP treatments are even being found to be helpful in some men with erectile dysfunction.
Also, intravenous infusions of the patient’s own stem cells have been shown in some studies to be helpful for stroke injuries, heart damage, lung inflammation, and even digestive and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Since the mesenchymal stem cells have the potential to differentiate into other cell types in the body, it is believed these therapies will have long lasting results.