What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is the process of replacing, renewing or engineering human cells, tissues, organs, proteins, etc for the purposes of restoring function and homeostasis in the body. It uses any means to heal otherwise nonfunctional cells, tissues and organs. One of the key components of regenerative medicine is the use of cell replacement strategies which usually requires stem cells.
These are unspecialized cells in our bodies that have the capacity to change into any healthy cell in our body. Meaning they can change into skin, bones, heart and muscle cells to name a few. They have the ability to replicate substantially as compared to normal somatic cells such as skin. Stem cells are located throughout our body in almost every organ and tissue such as bone marrow, fat, teeth, muscles, etc. However, as other cells in our body, stem cells also age as we do. At Gulf Coast Pain Institute we only use stem cells from umbilical cord tissue which are young and healthy.
A Look Back: The History of Stem Cell
Stem cells have been around for well over a century. In fact, the term stem cell was used as early as 1868 and in 1909, Alexander Maximow lectured at the Berlin Hematological Society on a theory that all blood cells come from the same ancestor cell…..a stem cell. In 1968, the first bone marrow transplant occurred which was successful due to stem cells in the bone marrow. In 1978, stem cells were discovered in human cord blood. From here on there were many new types of stem cells discovered and the world of regenerative medicine commenced to take shape and show much promise. Presently, stem cells have the capacity to replace bone, fat, cartilage, heart tissue, muscle, etc. This shows much promise for many disease states. In fact, there are greater than 5000 clinical studies with stem cells found on the United States clinictrials.gov website. This demonstrates the progress and promise of stem cells.
How Do Stem Cells Function?
Stem cells have the capacity to migrate to injured tissues, a phenomenon called homing. This occurs by injury/disease signals that are released from the distressed cells/tissue. Once stem cells are delivered to a site of injury or deployed into the bloodstream they go to these distressed signals and dock on adjacent cells to commence performing their job.
1. Serve as a cell replacement where they change into the needed cell type such as a muscle cell. This is ideal for traumatic injuries and orthopedic indications.
2. They do not express specific HLAs which help them avoid the immune system. In fact, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) do this so well that they are in clinical studies for graft vs host disease and have been approved for pediatric graft vs host disease in Canada. These studies and data support the notion that the cells are safe to use as an “off the shelf” product such as LIVEYONs product.
3. They dock on an adjacent cell and release proteins called growth factors, cytokines and chemokines. These factors help control many aspects systemically.
i. Control the immune system and regulate inflammation which is a key mediator of diseases of aging and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
ii. Help to increase new blood vessel formation which aids in adding vasculature so that tissues can receive proper blood flow and the correct nutrients needed to heal such is the case in stroke, peripheral artery disease and heart disease.
iii. Provide trophic support for surrounding tissues and help host endogenous repair. This works great when used for orthopedics as it causes signals to be released which may now activate your own stem cells to repair a knee for instance. In case of diabetes, it may help any remaining beta cells to reproduce or function optimally.
Here’s How It Works:
- Participating hospitals invite screened mothers expecting normal, healthy births to donate the resulting umbilical cord tissues. These otherwise discarded tissues are an excellent source of high-quality stem cells and growth factors which may be used in regenerative medicine. At the time of birth, a specialized nurse enters the delivery room to carry out the extraction procedures. The umbilical cord tissue and blood is extracted and taken to the lab which follows cGMP and GTP procedures. From here the regenerative medicine product is made.
- All the tissues obtained are screened under AATB standards in order to assure the highest quality product.
Regenerative Medicine Treats Various Medical Conditions
Today, physicians are using stem cell therapies in the treatment of a wide array of medical diseases/disorders and traumas. Presently, the uses of stem cells is becoming common practice with orthopedics as it may help deter a knee replacement or surgical procedure and improve function of joints following injury. Practitioners today are also using stem cells within disciplines like pain management, cardiology, rheumatology, and neurology.