Regenerative medicine is an old form of healing that has been around since antiquity. Roman doctors would poke hot needles into the shoulders of injured gladiators to create injury and stimulate healing. When we injure ourselves, our body sends out large doses of bioactive proteins which recruit mesenchymal stem cells out of our fat and bone marrow to head to the area of injury. They also attract macrophages and osteoblasts. Together these cells promote the removal of necrotic tissue and enhance tissue regeneration and repair.
There are also many different techniques that are used today. Modern regenerative medicine began over 100 years ago. Nikola Tesla developed the first ozone generator for medical use in 1900. Ozone therapy has many regenerative applications from musculoskeletal to autoimmune to antimicrobial to dentistry and many others.
Prolotherapy, also called proliferation therapy, has been around since the 1930s. This involves injecting tissue with dextrose to stimulate inflammation and healing. We’ll go into more detail about the different types of regenerative medicine in future blogs and today my goal is a brief introduction.
Think back to a time when you scraped your knee… picture the yellow sticky stuff that started to accumulate over the scraped tissue as it started to heal.
This sticky stuff is platelet rich plasma which is often referred to as PRP.
Platelets are responsible for the process of hemostasis, development of new connective tissue and the restoration of blood circulation. In the early 2000’s, doctors began using PRP therapeutically to treat musculoskeletal injuries.
My introduction to regenerative medicine was in 2016 when a friend from medical school, Dr. Alison Ganong, a PM&R and Sports med doc injected my knee in Tahoe. My knee had been bothering me from years of wear and tear. In 2014, an orthopedic surgeon advised me that if I didn’t stop running and other pounding activities, I would need a joint replacement before 50.
I was scheduled to work a rescue patrol on Denali in the summer of 2016 and was worried about the impact on my knee. Luckily, another friend from medical school, Dr. Pete Scheffel, an orthopedic surgeon in Grand Junction, advised me to go see Ali before throwing in the towel on activities. The injection of my knee opened up the rabbit hole which has led me to where I am today.
PRP is an autologous regenerative treatment meaning it comes from your own body. There is a lot of research validating the efficacy of PRP. More effective than PRP is the injection of mesenchymal stem cells. They contain more growth factors and are more potent than PRP. Autologous stem cells are harvested from bone marrow and/or fat and injected into damaged tissue to promote healing.
Two years after a couple of injections with PRP and more pounding, I got my knee injected with mesenchymal stem cells taken out of my bone marrow and fat. I always like to try everything on myself as part of my learning process. Both the PRP and the stem cell injections were effective, but they caused significant swelling and involved invasive procedures (like sticking a trochar in my pelvis to pull out bone marrow and suctioning fat out of my flanks which left me bruised for a couple of weeks).
I was in my 40’s and not producing nearly as many growth factors as I did when I was younger. Think about how fast you healed when you were a kid. Products derived from placenta and amnion offer therapies that help us to heal like we are kids again.
Currently there are many products out there that are derived from the cradle of life and contain magnitudes more growth factors. Products such as placental matrix, wharton’s Jelly, amniotic fluid and exosomes are relatively new and yield very promising results. The applications range from treatment of musculoskeletal injuries to neurologic injuries to autoimmune conditions to sexual wellness and aesthetics. Many of these treatments are naturally anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and stimulate your body to heal itself. I have personally received all the treatments listed above and found the process to be far less painful and the recovery more effective.
For more information on regenerative medicine, and to determine if regenerative therapy is right for you, contact us for a free 15-minute consult.
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?