Regenerative medicine procedures like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapies can seem like junk science to patients who do not follow medical news. To both the practitioners and beneficiaries of regenerative medicine though, the healing processes involved in PRP and stem cell treatments make perfect sense.
Broken bones provide a very clear example of what regenerative medicine practitioners are hoping to accomplish. The human body is very adept at healing itself, even when something like a fall breaks an arm or leg. Understanding how the body heals provides an excellent illustration for understanding the logic behind both stem cell and PRP therapies.
Body to the Rescue
When someone falls and breaks a bone, the body immediately springs into action. It starts working to fix the break even before the patient gets to the doctor to have his or her bone reset. It all begins with bleeding at the site of the break.
Blood vessels that run through bone tissue immediately begin to bleed at the moment of fracture. The blood contains proteins and growth factors that, when combined with the clotting nature of blood, temporary fill in the empty space left by the fracture. This is followed by inflammation.
Though we tend to shy away from inflammation in Western medicine, it is an essential part of the healing process. Inflammation signals the body to flood the site of injury with stem cells and growth factors. Upon arrival, stem cells begin differentiating into two kinds of tissue: hard bone and soft cartilage.
The new bone tissue initially forms on both ends of the fracture while the open space between is filled with soft cartilage. Over time, that soft cartilage is replaced with a hard callous and then new bone tissue. A broken bone completely healed with mature bone tissue rarely scars.
Promoting Faster Healing
The goal of both PRP and stem cell therapies is to promote what the body naturally does by making it faster and more efficient. So when doctors attend training courses at Apex Biologix outside of Salt Lake City, they are learning to make use of autologous stem cells and blood platelets to facilitate what the body normally does with a broken bone.
Both stem cell and PRP therapies are used by doctors to treat osteoarthritis, for example. In traditional Western medicine, we tend to treat osteoarthritis with medications that reduce inflammation and manage pain. But remember, inflammation is our friend. Keeping inflammation at bay may reduce arthritis pain, but it does not do anything to actually promote healing.
Some doctors use PRP therapy to treat osteoarthritis, injecting the patient's own treated blood into the painful joint. The platelets and growth factors in the treated blood then trigger the body's natural healing response. Others inject autologous stem cells so as to put the building blocks of healing directly at the site of injury. Still others use a combination of both therapies.
At the end of the day, the goal of regenerative medicine is to help the body perform as much self-healing is possible. In patients that exhibit the greatest success, PRP and stem cell therapies can lead to full and complete healing. Others may not enjoy 100% healing but still experience a significant reduction in pain without the need for any additional medications.
Regenerative medicine is not hard to understand if you set aside the politics and debates and actually look at the biology behind it. The principles behind regenerative medicine are medically and scientifically sound. Now we just need to find more ways to put those principles to use.