Clinical research regarding stem cell therapy benefits has grown dramatically in recent decades. The most promising thing about stem cell therapy is that it may offer relief for patients with chronic pain, difficult-to-heal injuries and other chronic conditions, all without medications or surgery.
The most common use of stem cell treatments is pain management. Many medical professionals consider stem cell therapy as a form of interventional pain management since it is a minimally invasive therapy, requiring only injections, around painful and damaged nerves, tendons, joints or muscle tissue.
There are several different conditions that stem cell therapy can treat. Some of the most common include shoulder pain, knee pain, tendonitis, tennis elbow or rotator cuff injuries. Stem cell therapy is now used in some cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy, also known as Regenerative Medicine, is a type of treatment option that uses stem cells to help repair damaged tissue, repair injuries and helps heal chronic conditions. It is a quick, in office treatment, performed through injections. This type of treatment has been found to help:
Reduce the healing time for injuries
Reduce pain, even chronic joint pain, with a reduced need for medications
Increase muscle functionality and range of motion
Improve sleep quality
Reduce muscle compensations and risk for future injuries
Decrease nerve damage
Reduce hair loss
Reduce the time for patients to resume normal activities
Have Stem Cells Already Been Used to Treat Diseases?
California Stem Cell Agency reports that there is “no limit to the types of diseases that could be treated with stem cell research.” Doctors have performed stem cell therapies to replace damaged cells by chemotherapy and other degenerative diseases such as heart failure. Because of their amazing abilities to help with regrowth, stem cell therapy treatments are now being used in treating:
Cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
Diabetes and other pancreatic dysfunctions
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s
How Stem Cell Therapy Works
Essentially, stem cells are progenitor cells which are capable of regeneration and differentiation into a wide range of specialized cell types. Stem cells are injected directly into the affected, painful area− they then follow inflammatory (pain) signals being sent from damaged tissues, providing multiple ways of repairing these damaged areas. Stem cells have these unique characteristics:
They are “unspecialized,” meaning stem cells can be deployed to damaged areas of your body and respond to inflammation signals. They substitute for dead or severely damaged cells and send off their own signals, stimulating your own dormant stem cells to carry out the repair work and to stimulate regeneration.
Stem Cell Therapy and Joint Injury/Joint Pain: The type of stem cells being used in the most cutting-edge practices, are called Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). A growing body of research shows that MSCs have the capability of differentiating and assisting in forming new orthopedic tissues that make up muscle, bones, cartilage and tendons, ligaments and adipose tissue (tissue used for the storing of fat).
Studies regarding orthopedic care shows that stem cell therapy has been found to reduce chronic pain, accelerate the healing of injuries and reduce the amount of time for patients to return to their normal activities.
Stem Cell Therapy and Cardiovascular Diseases: Cardiovascular diseases reduce oxygen to the heart tissue and cause scar tissue which changes blood flow and pressure. Research suggests that stem cells have the ability to provide growth factors and to stimulate those cells needed to repair heart and blood vessels. Here are some ways that stem cell therapy aids in heart disease:
Stem Cell Therapy and Wounds: Studies have found that stem cell treatments can help improve the growth of healthy new skin tissue, improve collagen production, stimulate hair growth after loss or incisions, and help replace scar tissue with newly formed healthy tissue.
One of the ways stem cells help facilitate wound healing is by increasing collagen concentrations in the skin, which shrinks as it matures and thereby strengthens and tightens the damaged area. This same mechanism also applies to treating connective tissue injuries related to collagen/cartilage loss, such as those caused by osteoarthritis or overuses that affect ligaments or tendons.
Stem Cells and Degenerative Diseases: Recent progress in the treatment of diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and stroke recovery show that stem cell therapy used to encourage the formation of new brain cells, neurons and synapses following cognitive degeneration or brain injuries. Current findings show that stem cells can improve synaptic circuits, optimize functional recovery, offer relief from degeneration symptoms, slow down disease progression and potentially even more.
Stem Cell Therapy and Immune Rejection Disorders: Immune rejection is the term used to describe damage to healthy tissue and cells in patients with autoimmune disorders and other inflammatory conditions. With these conditions, the patient’s immune system generates cellular and antibody responses to substances and tissues normally present in the body. This might be restricted to one organ or involve a tissue in different places. Because of this immune response, damage to different organs occurs. Examples of autoimmune diseases that have responded to stem cell therapy either in animals or humans include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
Currently, autoimmune conditions are treated with immune suppressive agents such as steroids, methotrexate, and cyclosporine. Although they induce temporary improvement, these approaches present the possibility of long-term adverse effects, as well as need for life-long treatment.
Stem cell therapy has been demonstrated to induce improvement with various forms of autoimmune disorders. Besides helping to heal damaged tissue, stem cells have the unique ability to modulate the immune system by shutting off pathological responses while preserving its ability to fight off disease. Stem cells home to inflamed tissue and start producing anti-inflammatory agents. The stem cells act locally and do not suppress the immune response of other areas of the body.
Stem Cell Research
The hope going forward is that stem cells can also be used as a “renewable source of replacement cells and tissues” to treat common and serious diseases without the need for organ transplants or surgeries, including: macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Over the last decade, the number of publications per year on stem cell-related research has increased 40x.
Rising R&D initiatives to develop therapeutic options for chronic diseases and growing demand for a regenerative treatment option are the most significant drivers of continuing stem cell research.
Stem Cell Success Stories
a) Stem Cells Able to Grow New Human Eyes: Biologists led by Kohji Nishida at Osaka University in Japan have discovered a new way to nurture and grow the tissues that make up the human eyeball. The scientists are able to grow retinas, corneas, the eye’s lens, and more using only a small sample of adult skin.
b) Stem Cell Injections Help Stroke Victims Walk Again: In a study out of Stanford, of 18 stroke victims who agreed to stem cells treatments, seven of them showed remarkable motor function improvements. This treatment could work for other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
c) Stem Cells Help Paralyzed Victim Gain Use of Arms: Doctors from the USC Neurorestoration Center and Keck Medicine of USC injected stem cells into the damaged cervical spine of a recently paralyzed 21-year-old man. Three months later, he showed dramatic improvement in sensation and movement of both arms.
To find out if stem cell therapy is right for you, please call Restorasis at 301-668-0002.