Regenerative medicine has been a hot topic as of late. This is primarily due to an increased number of physicians utilizing this therapeutic approach to treat a variety of issues. The purpose of this post is to help you, the reader, understand some of the basics of what is regenerative medicine. In general terms, regenerative medicine refers to a subtype of treatment options aimed to help the tissue heal organically. Essentially, we are trying to regenerate tissues to help with the patient’s complaints. There are various applications for regenerative medicine, but that post is for another day. Let dive into some of the varieties of regenerative medicine.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP): The best part of this option is that all the materials needed are from the patient. To get the PRP, a blood draw would take place, and anywhere from 10 to 50 mL of blood would be removed (depending on what kit/system is used). That blood is then spun in a centrifuge and the red/white blood cells get condensed in the bottom of the tube leaving a golden-yellow liquid at the top of the tube. This liquid has a high concentration of platelets, which have been shown to be more efficacious than steroids at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.
Bone marrow is another great option and is, once again, derived from the patient. The bone marrow is typically harvested from this iliac bone (part of the pelvic girdle). This can be done from the front or the back of the bone, depending on where the medicine is going to be injected after collection. The collection entails inserting a trocar (think of a fancy needle big enough to get through bone) into the bone and then aspirating out the bone marrow. Some kits require this material to be centrifuged but others have a specialized trocar and syringe that separates and filters the marrow as you aspirate.
Mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue harvesting is yet another version of regenerative medicine. These cells are once again derived from the patient. To harvest these cells, the physician performs liposuction and the lipoaspirate is collected in a sterile container. The container separates on filters the fat from liquid and particulates. Once the fat is washed and emulsified, it is ready for application to the desired area.
The final category of regenerative medicine is not from the patient. Amniotic fluid, Wharton’s Jelly, and umbilical cord blood contain high quantities of mesenchymal stem cells and are donated for medical use. For example, a mother has a successful caesarian section birth and doesn’t elect to keep the placenta and umbilical cord. The umbilical cord blood can be collected and screened for disease, and then applied to areas of concern. Wharton’s Jelly is the connective tissue in the umbilical cord that also contains a rich supply of mesenchymal cells. Amniotic fluid serves as a cushion for the developing embryo and is used in the exchange of nutrients from mother to baby. These fluids also contain mesenchymal cells, which can be applied to the patient to help strengthen damaged tissues, from cartilage to tendon and ligaments, and are showing promise in spinal cord injuries too.