As we age, the discs in our back experience normal wear and tear that can ultimately lead to degenerative disc disease (a term used to describe the broad effects of disc deterioration). A herniated disc is one common effect of degenerative disc disease, sometimes developing as a result of an injury or genetic predisposition, but most often occurring as a result of the natural decay process. Share this Post
As we age, the discs in our back experience normal wear and tear that can ultimately lead to degenerative disc disease (a term used to describe the broad effects of disc deterioration). A herniated disc is one common effect of degenerative disc disease, sometimes developing as a result of an injury or genetic predisposition, but most often occurring as a result of the natural decay process.
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What does “Herniated” Mean?
Our discs rest between our vertebrae, the bones that support our back. Each disc (we have 23 of them) is made up of a hardened outer layer that covers a gel-like center and serves to cushion our vertebrae and hold them together, thus safeguarding our spinal cord and allowing us to twist, turn and bend. If a tear occurs in the outer portion of the disc (annulus), the inner nucleus pulposus can seep through. This is called a herniated disc. It can be painful from the tear in the annular fibers and if the protruding inner portion of the disc chemically irritates or pushes onto surrounding nerves.
How Can You Use Stem Cells for Herniated Discs?
Stem cells are our bodies’ original building blocks. They are cells that can give rise to other types of cells, no matter their origination. Embryos contain stem cells, directing our development in utero, but adults also have stem cells that can be used for repair; these are the adult stem cells harvested for regenerative stem cell therapies. These cells are much more limited in the types of cells they can become.
Adult stem cells can differentiate into cells that can repair an abundance of different soft tissues or bone. More importantly, the stem cells can signal additional stem cells and growth factors to the site of injury leading to decreased inflammation, reduced pain, and tissue repair. This is especially important for regenerative purposes, as it allows tissue repair even in situations where the original cellular material has been lost or damaged and/or a blood supply limits vital nutrient access to a damaged area.\
In the case of a herniated disc, stem cells can be harvested from other areas of a patient’s body (usually bone marrow and adipose tissue), combined with platelet-rich plasma and then injected into a herniated disc with the expectation that the mesenchymal stem cells (from the fat tissue and bone marrow) will give rise to just the right type of cellular material needed to repair the disc’s outer and inner layers. On its own, the avascular disc has little access to the blood-borne nutrients needed for regeneration and restoration when it becomes damaged, but by injecting stem cells directly into the disc, this deficit is negated, with the stem cells provide the ability to repair tissue, decrease inflammation and recruit additional stem cells..
Ready to Learn More?
Using stem cells for herniated discs is a minimally invasive treatment option that works for many patients. If you’d like to discuss your medical history and symptoms to find out if stem cell therapy could be an option for you, please contact our office. ThriveMD’s medical director, Dr. Scott Brandt, has over three decades of experience and is one of the nation’s leading experts in regenerative medicine and interventional pain management. He will review your case and help you determine the best treatment option possible.