Most people have heard of stem cells in some capacity. Although the medical community and researchers have been working to develop the practical applications for stem cells for decades, the health benefits of regenerative medicine have only become a reality in recent years.
But what exactly are stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine? And how can they help in treating joint damage and deterioration from traumatic injuries like arthritis or common nerve injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome? If you follow any professional sports team or superstar athlete, chances are you’ve heard of some form of regenerative medicine used to save an athlete’s career from a degenerative joint or connective tissue injury that has stopped responding to conservative treatments and surgery. The powerful regenerative abilities of stem cells have opened the door to remarkable advancements in wound recovery.
Regenerative medicine therapy operates on the principles of using the body’s natural healing and disease-fighting capabilities to treat injuries that have been slow to respond to or do not show significant improvement from traditional therapies like conservative treatment (rest, physical therapy, medication) or surgery. Injuries and damage to the joints that result in cartilage deterioration, which does not grow back on its own, are a prime example of the potential benefits of regenerative medicine.
Stem cells, which can differentiate (transform) into a more specific type of cell, like cartilage or connective tissues such as muscle, ligaments, and tendons, for example, could potentially be used to help replace lost cartilage or to supercharge the body’s ability to heal a traumatic injury.
The main goals of regenerative medicine are:
So far, stem cell therapy has shown promise in the field of orthopedics and as a potential solution for chronic pain from debilitating joint deterioration and injuries. More advanced possibilities for the potential of regenerative medicine are still currently under development.
The human body contains what is known as growth factors, which help the body heal from an injury. Regenerative medicine treatments replicate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to find new and more effective ways to treat common health issues.
There are two main categories of stem cells: embryonic and somatic (adult). Stem cells can also be engineered in the lab to exhibit embryonic stem cell properties. This type of cell is known as an induced pluripotent stem cell. Adult stem cells can be found throughout the body, from the bone marrow (known as mesenchymal stem cells) to fat tissue (known as adipose stem cells), and from amniotic fluid.
Because stem cells are undifferentiated, meaning they can transform into many different types of cells, such as skin and cartilage, they have great potential as a minimally invasive and low-risk treatment option for conditions that have been difficult to successfully treat in the past, such as nerve damage and cartilage deterioration.
In addition to stem cells, there are a few regenerative therapies currently in use that harness the body’s healing capabilities and essentially turbocharge them to yield the best results. They include:
Platelet-rich plasma therapy uses a sample of the patient’s own blood to create a treatment enriched with an elevated dose of platelets and growth factors that accelerate the healing and recovery process for damaged tissue. And while it might sound like a complicated procedure, one of the benefits of regenerative treatments like PRP is that they are minimally invasive. After the blood is drawn, it is placed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the rest of the blood. Once it is ready, the PRP treatment is administered back into the injury site through an injection.
Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of the synovial fluid that surrounds the joints and aids in lubrication. HA treatments are designed to mimic naturally-occurring hyaluronic acid to restore health and function and to diminish pain in the joints.
The Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Phoenix has a wide range of minimally invasive treatment options if you are suffering from a hand or wrist injuring, such as:
If you have sought treatment for an injury or condition before with limited results, contact Dr. Fitzmaurice to learn if stem cell therapy may be a good option for you.
Learn more about regenerative medical treatments at Wikipedia.org.
For more information on the benefits of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy for the minimally invasive treatment of nerve and joint damage in the hands and wrists, contact The Fitzmaurice Hand Institute by calling (480) 351-6483 to request an appointment with double board-certified hand surgeon Dr. Michael Fitzmaurice today.