In the never-ending quest to supply patients with the best treatment solutions possible, there’s one area that has experienced rapid growth and development in recent years: the regenerative medicine field. This field is headed by stem cell therapy, a treatment that aims to repair damaged, diseased, or dysfunctional tissues with stem cells.
Over the past decade, stem cell research has helped take the treatment to new levels. Stem cell therapy has grown to become a viable alternative to various reconstructive surgery solutions, helping with issues such as the treatment of tendon and ligament tears, boosting flexibility and motion, and reducing joint pain. Stem cells researchers have also discovered methods to utilize this treatment for common chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Stem cell therapy: how it works
With the use of stem cells or their byproducts, stem cell therapy promotes the reparative response of tissue that is injured, diseased, or dysfunctional. These cells are grown in a laboratory by researchers, where the process of manipulation means they are turned into specialized cells for specific areas. These areas include muscle, blood, or nerve cells.
The stem cells generated via this method are then implanted, being directly injected into the affected area of the person. Due to the nature of the therapy, it is notable for how it is a relatively straightforward and fast outpatient procedure.
You know how stem cell therapy works. Now it is time to see the main reasons why you would personally benefit from this treatment.
The reasons to use stem cell therapy
1. Safe and minimally invasive
Due to their nature, and with the way tissue is lost to achieve success, surgical procedures are destructive. This is even the case for routine procedures. Stem cell therapy, however, is a completely different story. Rather than destructive, stem cells are regenerative.
Your own body is where the stem cells are harvested. This means that when they are redeployed to the problem area in your body, donor material rejection is never a potential risk. Sadly, the same cannot be said for surgery.
There are also various other risks associated with surgical procedures. Those who have suffered from malpractice can testify that surgery is an area rife with complications. Infection is a possible risk, while further operations might be required if the procedure fails. Anesthesia is also attached with well-known risks.
Stem cells are injected into the damaged tissues, which means there’s minimal invasion. There is no need to go under anesthesia, and the procedure is a day patient one, meaning you can return home on the same day.
2. Fast treatment and recovery
Extending on from the previous point, stem cell therapy is known for the speed of treatment before, during, and after the procedure.
The first step is to harvest the stem cells. When these cells are removed from your body, there are two main sources used: bone marrow or fat tissue. For bone marrow extractions, the cells are gained from either the hip or femur. However, fat tissue extractions are becoming the more popular option due to being less invasive and quicker to do. A simple liposuction procedure is all that’s needed to gather the necessary stem cells.
As for the treatment time, stem cell therapy can be completed in just 30 minutes. A local anesthetic is first used to numb the treatment area. The cells are then injected into the same area. That’s it. That’s all the process requires. Furthermore, there is virtually no recovery time involved. This is a far cry from a surgical alternative, where ample preparation is required, surgery can take several hours, and you may have to occupy a hospital bed and use post-op medications.
3. It is ethically responsible
Back in the early 2000s, stem cells had far from a rosy reputation. In fact, embryonic stem cells were a constant source of scrutiny in everything from news reports to South Park, and a 2001 ban was imposed on federally-funded research on these cells. The good news is these highly controversial cells are different from what are used today.
Previously, scientists stated that embryonic stem cells contained capabilities that were no longer present in adult stem cells. However, researchers later admitted adult stem cells contain most of the abilities of their embryonic counterparts. Now with this type of cells being derived from the body of the recipient, stem cell therapy is now 100% ethically responsible.
4. The treatment is healthy
As the previous points have spotlighted, stem cell treatments are known for being healthy. They ensure there’s less dependence on medication use, whether this is post-treatment or when helping with conditions that rely heavily on medication.
Another advantage is the less-invasive nature of the procedure. There are no surgery-related risks involved. You are also utilizing the mechanisms of your own body, meaning you recover naturally. There’s no reliance on blood donations, transplants, and so on. They’re your cells, and they provide natural healing.
Stem cell treatment can also be healthy for your bank balance. This is even the case despite stem cell therapy not being covered by most insurance providers. Insurance-backed surgery can often be more expensive, and it can also come with the add-on of costly prescriptions and hospital stays.
5. It’s a versatile treatment option
Versatility is one of the biggest advantages possessed by stem cell treatments. There are many ways in which stem cells can be used to treat conditions. Plus, as research continues and new discoveries are made, the list of uses for stem cells continues to grow.
Below are some of the most prominent applications of stem cells:
- Ligament repair: It is notoriously challenging to repair a damaged ligament. Their location in the body means they lack blood flow, and this is an essential element for healing. As a result, previous treatment options were either surgery or resting the ligament until its condition improved. The latter meant waiting around up to six weeks, even for just minor ligament tears. With stem cells, however, treatment for this injury has been significantly improved. By injecting cells into the damaged ligament’s surrounding area, recovery time can be sped up considerably.
- Nerve damage: The difficulty of repairing nerve damage has been well known in the medical sector. Even when surgery is utilized to reattach nerves, the resulting scar tissue hinders brain signals being transferred to the damaged nerves. This can lead to weak motor function, chronic pain, and, in the case of nerve damage to the spinal cord, permanent disability. The use of stem cells has shown an improvement in the function of damaged nerves, reducing the damage caused and improving tissue regeneration.
- Nervous system diseases: As with nerve damage, nervous system diseases can also be treated with stem cells. Due to being congenital and degenerative, the prognosis for nervous system disorders is bleak in many cases. With stem cell therapy, the degeneration of the nervous system caused by disease can be slowed down. There are even some examples of the damage being reversed. This has helped to not only improve the general quality of life of patients but also prolong their life expectancy.
- Joint problems: Cartilage, when damaged, does not typically renew itself. This has led to arthritis being a notoriously difficult condition to treat. Palliative care was previously viewed as the go-to option to reduce arthritis complaints. Yet, with advancements in stem cell research, this treatment is quickly becoming regarded as the best solution for joint problems. Cartilage is regenerated when stem cells are applied to joints, stopping inflammation and lessening pain as a result.
- Muscle recovery: Damage to the muscles, whether this is long-term issues or sudden tears, are known for being tough to treat. As with other conditions listed, the recommended treatment is to rest the muscle and avoid using it when possible. Trying to do this, however, is easier said than done. For those who are restless and want to speed up recovery, stem cells are once again a solution. Stem cell treatment not only assists with restoring the muscle tissue which is damaged, but it also strengthens existing tissue.
- Lung disease: Hundreds of millions of people worldwide are affected by lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While research and development is still in its early stages, stem cell therapy has shown the potential to treat lung diseases. As lung cells can be regenerated with the addition of stem cells, it’s possible for degeneration to be stalled.
- Spinal disc issues: Herniated and bulging spinal discs, which can put pressure on nearby nerves, can result in serious issues. Patience or surgery were usually the solutions to spinal disc issues. However, stem cells are again seen as a valuable – and superior – treatment option for speeding up recovery.
While the benefits gained from stem cells are already numerous, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Scientists continue to study the application of stem cells, and their research is helping to uncover new treatment methods and ways to maximize their effectiveness.