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Cell Therapy Generates Buzz

Dec 27, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

By Kelsey Casselbury

Regenerative cell therapy might seem like the newest technology, but a form of it has actually been around since the early 20th century—blood transfusions. In its most basic definition, regenerative cell therapy uses a human’s cells to fix parts of the body that are diseased or injured, and that includes now-common procedures like blood transplants and bone marrow transplants. 

Of course, the most basic definition of a procedure doesn’t usually apply in the 21st century, and regenerative cell therapy, often called stem cell therapy, is no exception. The procedure is different than standard treatments, such as medications, because it aims to treat the base cause of a problem rather than simply treating the symptoms. “Regenerative therapy taps into the body’s already in-born ability to heal itself—with a bit of a boost,” says Stephanie Chaney, MD, of Living Health Integrative Medicine in Annapolis. It also differs from surgery, which is often used to fix conditions such as joint problems, because it doesn’t require a significant amount of pre- or post-op problems. 

What Does Regenerative Cell Therapy Treat? 

Just about any joint problem, but with some caveats. Specific conditions aren’t treated. Rather, injections of stem cells into the body stimulate it to repair itself. This can help people heal from joint degeneration and possibly prevent joint replacements in some people. Chaney says that the practice has seen results for shoulder rotator cuff tears (as long as it’s not fully torn), elbow pain, and even thumb injuries. 

Retired football player Charles Mann, whose body was worn down from 12 years of playing in the NFL, including 11 with the Washington Redskins, has received the treatment. He wanted to avoid his 19th surgery, and after a few months with injections into his knee, Mann was back on the golf course after a three-year, pain-related hiatus. 

Looking to the Future

Despite all the progress that’s been made in the field of cellular and gene therapy, the FDA has approved just 15 products—in other words, there’s a long way to go. Chaney notes that though her practice focuses on joint regeneration and restoration for those with chronic system issues, she’s excited about research that shows potential for regenerating eyesight in those who suffer from macular degeneration, as well as UK research on regenerating teeth by introducing a stem cell matrix. “In the future, we may be able to avoid toxic dental fillings in lieu of stem cell therapy stimulating our teeth to regrow after drilling out a cavity,” Chaney says. 

Of course, this type of scientific discovery takes time. “It’s all very exciting, but much is in the research stages,” she adds. “I don’t know when we’ll be reaping the benefits, but we’re moving in a direction where stem cells will be part of many protocols.” 

“Regenerative therapy taps into the body’s already in-born ability to heal itself—with a bit of a boost” Stephanie Chaney, MD, of Living Health Integrative Medicine in Annapolis