The goal of regenerative medicine is to replace tissue or organs that have been permanently damaged by disease or injury. Scientists are making headway in this field of growing new tissue. This will eventually reduce the need to rely on transplants and immunosuppressant medications. It will also reduce complications in recovery.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Considered an interdisciplinary field, regenerative medicine combines molecular biology and engineering to grow tissue in order to restore diseased and damaged tissues and organs. It is now considered the new science behind the body’s ability to successfully heal.
Doctors are beginning to use this unique process of creating functional tissue in hopes to repair or replace tissue that’s been lost, damaged, or suffered as a result of congenital-based defects, age, injury, and/or disease.
The goal is to stimulate the areas of the body that are damaged, to heal themselves.
If this is not possible, doctors and scientists engage in the process of growing tissues and organs in a laboratory for the purpose of implanting them within the body of the patient that requires them.
In recent years, this type of medicine has grown in popularity due to the shortage of organs received from donors.
Types of Regenerative Medicine
There are several types of regenerative medicine in existence today. While still new and currently under comprehensive evaluation, it has been established that all the various types hold promise.
The type of medicine that is appropriate for a patient will depend heavily upon several factors. These include their health history, their general health, and any conditions in which they currently suffer.
The results of the various types of regenerative medicine are dependent upon the production process of the regenerative cells, as well as the administration process.
The following outlines the most common types of regenerative medicine currently available in the healthcare field:
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy – This type of regenerative medicine was officially developed during the 1970s. Since that time, it has been utilized in various medical disciplines, such as plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, and sports medicine. It gained an immense degree of popularity in the year of 2009 when the wide receiver named Hines Ward – who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers – received the injection prior to the Super Bowl. It aided in the healing of a sprained ligament that was located in his right knee. When receiving this type of therapy, the patient is only injected with a special concentration from their own blood in order to promote the healing process.
- Tissue Engineering – This is a highly scientific form of regenerative medicine that specializes in combining bio-medical scient and the various principles associated with material engineering. The final result is the development of biological-based artificial tissues and organs that may be used to repair and/or completely replace tissues and organs that are damaged due to injury, disease, and other complications. Cell types are grown in a laboratory setting and then directly implanted into the individual suffering from complications.
- Stem Cell Transplant – Stem cells are the specialized cells within the human body that help all other cells within that body to develop specialized functions. In a laboratory setting, stem cells are capable of engaging in the process of division and creating daughter cells. In turn, the daughter cells may develop into new stem cells, or specialized cells such as those that are in the bone, brain, heart, and blood. In regenerative medicine, stem cells are used to develop very specific cells that can aid in the regeneration and repair of tissues and/or organs that are damaged and/or diseased. Individuals that may benefit from this type of regenerative therapy include burn victims, stroke patients, those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
Why Regenerative Medicine is Necessary
There are several distinct reasons why we need regenerative medicine in today’s world. To understand its necessity, consider the following facts:
- Each and every single year in the United States alone, approximately half a million transplants are performed on patients.
- The baby boomer generation is now reaching a point where there is a very high demand for various types of organs and tissues within the body. Unfortunately, this need exceeds the amount of donor organs that are currently in existence.
- At any given time, there are typically well over 100,000 patients on a list, waiting for organs that they need from donors. Unfortunately, most of these people will experience severe complications and even die before a suitable organ becomes available.
How Has Regenerative Medicine Been Used, To Date?
Regenerative medicine has been used throughout the years to help patients in many different ways. The following outlines the most remarkable methods of utilization:
- Patients suffer from a wide range of skin conditions. These include burn wounds, ulcers from diseases like diabetes, cuts, and other issues that result in scarring and health-related complications. Regenerative medicine has been able to engineer skin that can replace injured and/or diseased skin.
- Medical professionals and engineers have been able to pull cells from the body of a patient and create a new bladder. It is grown in a laboratory setting and then transplanted into the body of that patient.
- We all depend on our bones, muscles, ligaments, and cartilage for movement. Several products have been engineered in a laboratory setting that helps in encouraging the growth of bone and connective tissues. The cartilage of the knee has been replaced. Even the regeneration of long bones has been achieved.
- Today, scientists and doctors are working together to engineer vascular-based grafts and other items for those that suffer from cardiovascular disease. While a lot of the heart-based regenerative medicine therapies are currently at the pre-clinical stage in trials, they all appear to be quite promising.
- Areas from the small intestines of a pig may now be used to restore tissues that have been damaged and to encourage the body’s process of healing itself. It is referred to as “small intestinal submucosa” or “SIS”. Patients that have benefited from this include those that need open wounds sealed, have suffered from burns, require reconstruction of the ligaments, have chronic pressure ulcers on the body, and more.
Regenerative Rehabilitation Physical Therapy
Currently, the clinical method of treating patients with damaged tissue focuses on providing relief from symptoms.
Regenerative medicine actually replaces damaged tissues and/or organs through the means of cellular therapy, engineering of tissues and artificial organ creation.
Professionals in the healthcare field are now combining these different regenerative therapies to provide a boost to the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Physical therapists are now playing a large role in the process of rehabilitating patients who have undergone various types of regenerative procedures.
When patients engage in regenerative therapies, they will meet with a physical therapist in order to open up the lines of communication.
Contact is made with the regenerative doctor so that the physical therapist is able to gain an understanding of the science behind the procedure or procedures that will be performed.
The patient is then instructed on the process and provided information on the biomechanics associated with the therapy that they will have done.
Then, training will be provided – beforehand – that helps the patient properly prepare for the procedure or procedures that will be performed on them.
Most regenerative rehabilitation programs offered by physical therapists combine biomechanics loading, tissue mobilization and rest, with the goal to regain function lost by damaged or diseased tissue.
Regenerative rehabilitation is a unique collaboration between the regenerative doctor, the patient, and the physical therapist team that will work with the patient after the regenerative therapy.
Professionals that work in regenerative medicine and therapy must work with one another to ensure the success of the therapies that are provided to the patients.
First, all clinicians should have a basic knowledge of this type of medicine, as well as the biology of stem cells. They should have all of the tools at their disposal that will allow for the successful collaboration of all professionals.
Then, they must work together when it comes to the application process. In working together, not only do the patients move to a point where they successfully heal and recover, but the field of regenerative medicine will also move to a point where it is more recognized within the medical community.
Patients who engage in regenerative medicine will typically be required to remain in the hospital for a short amount of time after their procedure. Physical therapists may meet with them in the hospital or after they are released.
To start, they will be provided with exercises that are low in intensity to encourage the body to heal itself. The goal is to build up the core strength of the body, improve the mobility and range of motion in the body, and movements that will help the body heal quickly and without complications.
During this process, the physical therapist will remain in contact with the regenerative medicine doctor to ensure optimal success with their patient.
A message from Mayo Clinic:
Just the Beginning
Regenerative medicine is in its infancy. The research being conducted today will lead to a multitude of new treatments for those patients that have damaged and/or diseased tissue.
This area is very challenging in the medical community. While it is true that that doctors can repair us with artificial parts, these are known to result in infection, inflammation, and completely deteriorate as time progresses. Transplants from donor parts are in short supply, and moving parts from one person to another often poses a vast array of challenges. But the future is looking promising.
Regenerative medicine is helping doctors heal patients by using their own cells. Cell therapy and gene therapy can actually grow perfect replacements to the various tissues and organs of the body. As a result, the patient’s immune system will accept these parts and the need for immune suppressant drugs will no longer be necessary.
Physical therapists will work closely with patients and their regenerative medicine medical teams to ensure optimal healing and success.