Oftentimes, chronic pain sufferers are led to believe their discomfort is simply something they’ll have to endure. While home remedies such as heat and cold therapy and over-the-counter pain medications may provide some relief, it’s typically inadequate. This is despite the fact that an estimated 20% of the U.S. adult population experiences chronic pain.
Whether it’s due to a previous injury, arthritis, or another culprit, chronic pain calls for a more effective approach. For this reason, experts have been studying the use of regenerative medicine to treat it. One therapy in particular which shows promise is stem cell therapy for chronic pain.
Stem Cell Treatment for Chronic Pain
Stem cells are the body’s cellular building blocks from which all differentiated cell types are derived. Not only can they transform into virtually any cell type, but they also have restorative qualities to help repair damaged tissue in the joints, cartilage, and tendons, among other areas. Plus, they can reduce inflammation for further healing benefits.
Many people with chronic pain are ideal candidates for this treatment. People with degenerative diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are among the prime populations who can benefit. In addition, performance athletes may receive stem cell therapy to repair joints and muscles which have been damaged by trauma. People whose pain doesn’t respond well to analgesic medications, including those with type 2 diabetes or anyone who has had amputation surgery can also benefit from stem cells. Research shows the cells can curb neuropathic pain, unlike many other treatments.
For the more than 54 million people in the U.S. suffering from arthritis, stem cells can provide an alternative option to explore. Since the prevalence of arthritis is only predicted to increase over the next decade, finding a viable option to combat the pain is critical. Stem cell therapy has been studied to show promising outcomes as a non-surgical means to manage the common symptoms of arthritis, including the hips, shoulders, knees, and spine. Patients experience benefits such as improved mobility and flexibility, reduced pain and stiffness, and increased energy.
In addition to these results, patients also experience benefits such as:
- Reduced downtime before returning to normal activities
- Fast results
- Reduced inflammation
While stem cells may not be a cure-all for chronic pain, they are certainly an avenue worth exploring for anyone whose discomfort has persisted after using traditional approaches. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when sudden trauma damages the brain. While mild TBI can temporarily affect brain cells, more serious injuries can lead to bleeding, torn tissue, and bruising which can cause lasting complications. Brian damage studies have shown that stem cells may be an alternative option for patients to explore.
According to research, exogenous stem cells can target damaged brain tissue. They can then partake in the repair process by differentiating into cells that replaced the damaged tissue, while simultaneously releasing anti-inflammatory properties. These effects have the ability to promote improvements in neurological function in people with TBI.
Several types of stem cells have been studied for TBI, including:
- Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Typically retrieved from adult bone marrow, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) aid in tissue regeneration, the inhibition of inflammation, and the recruitment of progenitor cells to replace lost cells. Other studies have shown improvement in neurological function after MSC treatment was administered.
- Neural Stem Cells: Neural stem cells (NSCs) self-renew and can differentiate into different types of cells, including neurons. According to results from animal studies, transplanted NSCs were able to mature into different brain cells and survive for at least five months. Studies have also shown that NSC injection enhances cognitive and learning abilities, as well as motor function.
- Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells: Known for their ability to differentiate into endothelial cells, multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) have been shown to improve memory retrieval, the ability to retain information, spatial learning, and dyskinesia (impairment of voluntary movement). These cells have particularly powerful anti-inflammatory response characteristics.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: In 2007, Japanese scientists reprogramed somatic cells into a new class that resembled embryonic stem cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Using the TBI model, researchers have determined that iPSCs could improve neurological function after transplanted into the injured area and specifically enhance motor function.
- Endothelial Progenitor Cells: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are the precursors of vascular endothelial cells found in the bone marrow. They are recruited to the site of injury, especially after brain injury. In a brain injury model, endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) showed an ability to home in on the injured area and repair the blood-brain barrier. They can enhance capillary formation and reduce inflammation.
While further research is needed on these methods of stem cell therapy, early results do show promise in their benefits for those exploring regenerative medicine options for Traumatic Brain Injury. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!
Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and affects roughly one-fifth of the adult population. Yet, despite its prevalence, treatments for chronic pain are often ineffective. Patients are often advised to use home remedies, such as NSAIDs or heat therapy, which can temporarily mask discomfort, only to have it return later. Prescription painkillers are habit-forming and carry a host of undesirable side effects. Surgeries are invasive and have their own risks, too.
Understandably, people experiencing chronic pain seek an alternative, and the medical community is working hard to respond. Recently, researchers have begun exploring stem cell therapy as a more permanent and viable solution for chronic pain to heal the compromised tissue instead of simply masking symptoms. Here’s a look into what this regenerative medicine therapy could do.
The Power of Stem Cells
Stem cells are the foundations for every specialized cell type in the body. They are at their most powerful during the embryo stage, when they transform into differentiated cells and multiply indefinitely to support fetal development.
As we age, the body still retains some stem cells. Although they aren’t as strong as they were during the embryonic stage, they still hold enormous regenerative potential. For instance, following an injury, stem cells aid in the repair process, though they aren’t always as strong or in the quantity needed for a full recovery.
Leveraging the Power of Stem Cells: Chronic Pain Fighters
Stem cell therapy calls on the body’s natural repair kit by taking the stem cells you already produce and redirecting them to problem areas, such as compromised joint tissue. The cells can either be extracted from the patient themselves, found in sources such as the bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue, or provided via donors. They are then strategically administered to the area of damaged tissue, where the body accepts the healing agents.
Once stem cells have been administered, they perform their job of minimizing inflammation, as well as regenerating and repairing damaged tissue. Thus, they don’t simply mask pain, but actually work to heal the underlying issue.
While there are many conditions for which stem cells are being used as a promising treatment, here are just a few of the most common issues related that they can treat:
- Sports injuries
- Degenerative disc disease
- Musculoskeletal injury
- Persistent joint pain
If you’re experiencing an orthopedic, autoimmune, or degenerative condition causing chronic pain, stem cell therapy could hold the key to helping you lead a life with less pain. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!
Neurodegenerative diseases affect millions of people across the globe. Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease are the two most common illnesses within this category, and as of 2016, more than five million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease alone. It’s estimated that the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases will only increase in the coming years with the aging population.
Characterized by the loss of function and death of nerve cells, neurodegenerative diseases cannot currently be cured. There are medications available to control symptoms, but patients don’t always respond to these drugs as desired. Moreover, there are often side effects which can further diminish patients’ health and wellbeing.
Stem Cells for Neurodegenerative Diseases
As a promising alternative to traditional medicine, stem cell therapy is being explored as a treatment for neurodegenerative conditions. These remarkable cells act as the basis from which every other differentiated cell type in the body is created. They can self-renew and transform into nearly any cell type. With these capabilities, researchers are finding that stem cells can repair damaged neurons, thus controlling the rate of disease. In some cases, it’s possible that stem cells could even reverse some of the damage already done.
There are several different types of stem cells being investigated for neurodegenerative conditions, including:
- Tissue-specific stem cells: These stem cells can give rise to multiple organ-specific cells and are typically located in areas of the body that can self-renew, including the skin and blood.
- Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs): MSCs are located within the bone marrow and can differentiate into several types of cells, including cartilage, bone, and muscle. They have strong self-renewing properties and are therefore an ideal candidate for tissue repair.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs): iPSCs are artificially derived from adult cells and programmed back to pluripotency. This creates an unlimited source of any cell type. Although iPSCs have been used in developing medications and disease modeling, further research is needed to determine their efficacy in other types of treatment.
- Neural Stem Cells (NSCs): NSCs are derived from specific areas of the brain and are thus considered specialized cells. Like other stem cells, they are self-renewing and multipotent.
Stem Cells for Neurodegenerative Diseases
The research into how stem cells can help patients with neurodegenerative diseases is ongoing. With that being said, tremendous progress has already been made. In specific, stem cell therapy is being used to help treat the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Columbia University researchers have discovered a groundbreaking process through which skin cells could be converted into brain cells. With further research, this process could help to create neurons which have been compromised by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Parkinson’s Disease: PD patients experience a decline of dopamine as brain cells are destroyed. As dopamine levels drop, patients experience a range of challenging symptoms, including issues with movement and cognition. Recently, stem-cell derived dopaminergic neurons created through ESCs and iPSCs have emerged as a potential option for replacing compromised brain cells.
ALS: ALS has puzzled researchers for decades, largely due to the inability to source motor neurons in large enough numbers for studying. Recently, however, Harvard researchers have acquired mature cells that can be manipulated back into stem cells from ALS patients, which could lay the foundation for studying new therapies. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the joints, as well as several body systems. As an autoimmune disease, RA is characterized by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own healthy tissue. While other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are caused by general wear and tear, RA targets the joint lining, resulting in swelling that will eventually erode the joints and bones.
In some cases, the inflammation can cause widespread damage throughout bodily systems such as the eyes, skin, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Although there have been treatments available to control the symptoms of RA, in some severe cases, physical disabilities may still occur.
Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Typically, RA is treated with immune suppressive medications such as steroids. While they may offer temporary relief, long-term use isn’t advised, as it can suppress the body’s immune response. Thus, such medications leave patients more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be prescribed as well, or biologics if needed. Nonetheless, these medications fail to address joint damage which has already occurred. Moreover, many patients fail to see significant results.
Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a studied and researched option to target inflamed tissue and trigger the development and anti-inflammatory agents. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), in particular, have been shown to produce T regulatory cells, which help to safeguard against the self-attacking immune response seen in RA. One study on MSCs for RA demonstrated a significant decrease in pro-inflammatory agents, absent of the long-term side effects caused by traditional RA therapies.
Which Type of Stem Cells Are Used to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
MSCs are a commonly used stem cell therapy option for managing symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. These cells are derived from either adipose (fat) tissue from the patient or the umbilical cord (Wharton’s Jelly) following healthy births. The mothers undergo rigorous screening to ensure the safety of the cells. Because umbilical cord-derived stem cells are some of the youngest, they have longer cell lives than those derived from adults.
What Are the Benefits of Mesenchymal Stem Cells?
Since they are do not come from the blood, MSCs are considered safe and do not require phenotypic or Hyman Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching. Cell rejection is therefore not a concern. Mesenchymal stem cells exert a number of beneficial effects on the cells of the immune system. Mesenchymal stem cells can help fine-tune the immune system by inducing the action of regulatory T-cells potentially shifting the balance from harmful to helpful immune system function.
The benefits of MSCs leave researchers optimistic about the future of stem cells as an option for those with autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. The therapy is a worthwhile option to explore for patients seeking potential improvements for their day to day quality of life. Contact a Care Coordinator today for a free assessment!