Regenerative Medicine: Cellular Level Therapy
There are definitive turning points in the history of medicine. When something comes along that completely changes the way we, as physicians, treat and heal our patients. Often times, it’s not until years later that we can truly understand the impact that is presented by these game changing events. But there is no doubt that without these advances, we would still be treating patients by balancing the levels of blood, bile, and phlegm (known as the 4 humors), expelling evil spirits that caused epileptic seizures, or warding off the plague with a bouquet of posies.
Each time mankind was presented a new technology or school of thought, there was undoubtedly pushback from the public, fellow physicians or scientists, and sometimes religion. There was quite a bit of controversy when Edward Jenner began inoculating people with a modified version of cowpox to prevent the spread of the more fatal and contagious smallpox virus. As we now know, this development saved countless lives and began a new path for treating deadly disease.
Marie Curie and her husband were at the forefront of what would later become radiography, and did countless experiments on themselves to explore this new technology that allowed us for the first time to see inside the living human body. Those early experiments led to more sophisticated and detailed imaging capabilities giving us far greater insight than was ever thought possible. Unfortunately, Marie Curie also alerted us to the potential dangers of scientific advancement, as the repetitive exposure to the radium used for these test eventually caused her death.
And of course there is newfound controversy related to the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming. It’s impossible to know how many lives worldwide were saved because of the implementation of antibiotics. Conversely, it’s also impossible to ignore that the sheer pervasiveness, over reliance and over prescribing of these powerful bacteria — to the point that the infecting bacteria have evolved to be resistant to the antibiotics, creating a possible perfect storm scenario that can be devastating.
We are currently in a time where technology and medical discoveries and advancements are being made at a breakneck pace. We are on the event horizon of possibilities we cannot yet fathom, but will alter our understanding of medicine and the body, and change the way we treat and heal disease and illness. It’s one of these latest treatments to emerge that I feel has the greatest potential and has me very excited—the field of Regenerative Medicine.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
The name may sound foreign, but the science behind it has been around for decades. While stem cell therapy isn’t exactly new, the improvements in the collection of the cells, and more interestingly, the ability to use the cells to target-treat different areas of the body is where things start to get really interesting. New advancements in stem cell therapies – officially referred to as human cell and tissue products – are changing the way we heal our bodies.
What exactly is a stem cell? A stem cell is an undifferentiated type of cell that has the unique ability to become specialized. These cells exist in our bone marrow, our fat, and the placenta with which we were born. In a laboratory, a stem cell can literally become any kind of cell in the body, but that isn't necessarily what it does when introduced into the body of a human or a primate. These stem cells in combination with their surrounding environment (umbilical cord tissue/Wharton's jelly, amnion/amniotic fluid, cytokines, hyaluronic acid) set the scene for regeneration. Human cell and tissue products (umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their surrounding matrix) have the ability to induce profound healing activity in areas of degeneration, inflammation, and immune system dysfunction.
Stem cells are the repair cells in our bodies. They modulate the immune system in such a way to reduce inflammation and promote regeneration. As we age, the number of stem cells we have declines and their ability to operate optimally diminishes. In simple terms, the older we get, the faster we age. Strategically introducing stem cells into our aging bodies has the potential to encourage our older cells to behave more like, well, our younger/childhood cells. They have the potential to increase our body's ability to repair, regenerate, and modulate healthy immune system function. In the literature, MSCs have been associated with improvements in osteoarthritis, autoimmune disease, neurological conditions, spinal cord injury, heart failure, pain syndromes, and inflammation.
Where Do These Stem Cells Come From?
When someone mentions stem cells, chances are your mind enters into a moral gray area because of the history of collecting some of the first stem cells for study. And no matter which side of that spectrum you stand on, stem cells have been tainted with this stigma ever since.
So, let’s start off by setting your mind at ease. The type of cells we are working with are Mesenchymal Stem Cells, and they are derived exclusively from umbilical cord tissue and other placental materials which are donated from live healthy births. Extracting stem cells this way is safe and noninvasive. It has never been associated with serious adverse reaction. This is tissue that would normally be discarded after a healthy and normal birth. After rigorous pre-screening and testing, the umbilical cord tissue is extracted at the time of birth and taken to a lab for FDA approved manufacturing practices and production under stringent safety protocols. There are strict guidelines in place to ensure the mother and baby are both healthy and free of any illness or disease. It’s from these healthy tissues that would normally be discarded that we are able to acquire some amazing materials.
In the cord, we are able to extract a substance known as Wharton’s Jelly, a gelatinous medium full of Mesenchymal Stem Cells and other important building blocks such as hyaluronic acid (HA) found in connective tissues; fibroblasts which are essential to collagen and tissue production; and macrophages which help control immunity functions in the body. On the placenta side, we find a type of cell that is more adept to change. The ability for a cell to begin in an agnostic state and then to shift into a specific type of cell unique to an organ, nerve, or tissue — to become a purpose-driven and targeted therapy — is truly an amazing process, and I have no doubt that this is the future of medicine.
Remember – this incredible healing potential is collected and derived from material that was going to be tossed into the landfill.
What Can Stem Cell Therapy Be Used For?
I hesitate to say that you can use stem cells to treat anything, but the emerging research is starting to show that regenerative medicine using stem cells is very effective in the healing process. Current research studies around the world are consistantly reporting new and exciting developments in many areas.
Heart Diseases, Liver Diseases, Gastrointestinal Conditions (like Crohn’s and diverticulitis), Endocrine Disorders
Hair Growth and Restoration, Facial Rejuvenation, Acne Healing, Collagen Regeneration, Skin Reconditioning
Erectile Dysfunction, Sexual Dysfunction, Vaginal Rejuvenation, Incontinence, Peyronie’s Disease, Improved Libido, Increased Sensitivity, Stronger Orgasm
Stem cells possess unique anti-aging effects through regenerating and repairing organs
Osteoarthritis, Joint Pain, Bursitis, Neuromuscular Disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain
How Much Does This Type of Treatment Cost?
The cost of treatment will vary depending on the type of condition and the number of treatments needed. We want to be upfront and transparent on our pricing so below are some examples of available treatments and costs. The number of sessions needed will be determined by the type of treatment that is needed.
Because these are not traditional forms of treatment your insurance provider more than likely will not cover stem cell therapy. It’s best to check with them to establish any potential reimbursement or deductible allocation prior to receiving treatment. While we do not bill insurance in our practice, we will provide you with a superbill and proof of payment to provide to your insurance provider.
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?
These procedures are non-invasive and essentially pain-free. Most cases will consist of simple injections in the area that needs treatment. Any discomfort you may feel will be similar to other shots you have received in the past.
How Long Until I See Benefits? How Long Do They Last?
Studies have shown that people start to notice the effects between two and four weeks after treatment begins. Keep in mind that most of these therapy protocols are completed after one treatment, while other conditions - such as neurodegenerative diseases, heart failure, etc. - can involve multiple injections over the course of a few visits. The improvement should increase with each visit as the cells begin the repair and rejuvenation processes to the damaged areas. Since this technology is still relatively new, the duration of long-term efficacy is still being determined. But current research has demonstrated improved results lasting more than two years.
Every person, and every body's response to treatment is unique, and we cannot possibly offer guaranteed results. However, the results we've seen so far in our clinic are very promising.
Is Regenerative Medicine Right for Me?
We are here to answer any questions you may have. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information on stem cell therapies offered at Lindgren Functional Medicine, or to know if you are a good candidate for this type of treatment. Stem Cell Therapy consultations are $250 which is applied to the treatment, which in most cases can be administered the same day.