Regenerative medicine is the process by which animal cells — human ones included — are repaired or replaced to facilitate normal bodily function. In this way, regenerative medicine is not unlike all medicine; it aims to maintain the working order of our bodies. In contrast to other medical specialties, however, regenerative medicine seeks to understand the molecular and cellular basis of biological processes so that therapeutic treatment of disease and injury solves a functional problem rather than simply treats a symptom.
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Today, stem cell therapy is at the forefront of regenerative medicine. Stem cells are the body’s original building blocks, capable of differentiating into and constructing the tissues in our bodies, either initially or as part of a physiological response. Early understanding of stem cells had them originating only as part of embryonic development. Now we know they exist in adult tissues, as well. In fact, they not only reside in adult tissues; they have the potential to replace, repair and regrow defective tissue when removed from their original tissue source(s) and applied to a damaged one. It’s an exciting detail with implications for a host of different conditions, especially orthopedic ones. Stem cell therapy for cervical degenerative disc disease, in particular, can provide relief from debilitating neck pain by actually treating the underlying cause of it. In the past, there was no way for cervical discs to naturally fight inflammation, injury and disease since they have limited blood supply and, thus, no spontaneous way to receive the restorative nutrients they need when compromised. Ongoing research from the last 20 years, however, shows that when adult mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cells, along with certain growth factors and platelet-rich plasma, are taken from a patient and applied to his or her damaged cervical disc, they have the capacity to do the following things:
Inflammation is the process by which the immune system seeks to remedy a problem (such as an infection or injury) within the body. When an area of the body is damaged (like a cervical disc), white blood cells rush to the damaged area to help, releasing chemicals that can increase blood flow (causing redness and heat) and prompt fluid to leak into surrounding tissue (causing swelling). The resulting swelling can then create pain and a loss of function in the affected area as nearby nerves are stimulated and compressed. When stem cells are injected to this area, they have the potential to inhibit and/or modulate the effects of the immune response, thereby creating an environment that is conducive to the replication of disc cells.
Revive Osmotic Pressure
In addition to reducing the effects of inflammation, stem cell therapy for cervical degenerative disc disease also has the potential to reinstate osmotic pressure within damaged discs. This, like the effect above, makes it more likely that transplanted stem cells will actually be able to create new disc cells. Here’s why:
Most of our tissues receive oxygen and other nutrients through direct access to blood, which carries them throughout the body Intervertebral discs, however, don’t have a blood supply and, instead, when healthy, use osmotic pressure to pull in oxygen and nutrients and push out waste from the surrounding cerebrospinal fluid. This system works as long as the disc remains robust and well-hydrated, but when the disc begins to deteriorate from age or injury, its ability to maintain optimal levels of pressure decreases, impeding the flow of much needed nutrients and further compromising its overall health. Stem cell therapy for cervical degenerative disc disease can remedy this by introducing a solution of growth factors (along with the stem cells and platelet-rich plasma) into a damaged disc that can help rebuild pressure. Like a reduction in inflammation, the restoration of pressure improves the overall health of the disc, making it more likely that stem cells transplanted there will effectively replicate disc cells (see below).
Replicate Disc Cells
As mentioned, stem cells can become most types of cells. That’s how it’s possible that stem cells taken from fat tissue or bone marrow can become disc tissue. The only caveat? They have to have the right environment. Stem cell therapy for cervical degenerative disc disease provides it by removing inflammation and restoring osmotic pressure, providing stem cells with the nutrients, oxygen and scaffolding they need to render new disc tissue.
At ThriveMD, we use autologous stem cells from multiple sources, along with growth factors and platelet-rich plasma, to treat lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, soft tissue and joint damage, erectile dysfunction and more. Please contact our office if you or a loved one would like to learn more.