Embracing New Treatments

Regenerative Medicine Options in Gainesville, Florida

Focused on Pain Medicine, Not Just Pain Management

WHAT IS REGENERATIVE MEDICINE?

Regenerative medicine is a field of medicine that aims to develop methods to repair damaged or diseased cells, tissues, and organs. Much of the current research is targeted toward musculoskeletal pathology, which is commonly seen at Advanced Pain Medical Center. Regenerative therapy works by injecting a product that will cause the body to concentrate its innate healing ability in a certain area. The therapy acts as a magnet for the healing cells throughout the body to gather in this one place to work overtime in healing damaged tissue. This works because the injected substance acts as a “signal” or “homing beacon” to the rest of the body.

Our cells communicate with each other constantly. This is how our brain knows that we’ve hurt our foot. It’s how our hands know to brace us in a fall. The communication allows for a coordinated response, but the communication is also specific. When we cut our finger, we form a clot on our finger. Why don’t we form a clot in our lungs (which would be fatal)? It’s because our bodies are very smart about signaling. Regenerative therapy takes advantage of that.

Our regenerative medicine therapies are performed as outpatient procedures in our office. This involves an injection of concentrated growth factors and/or stem cells and/or exosomes to regenerate and heal tissues in joints, muscles, tendons, spinal discs, or ligaments. In other words, these procedures can treat acute or chronic pain conditions related to injury or degenerative disease.

What is PRP Therapy?

Blood contains multiple components; it is not just a liquid. It contains cellular components. Blood is a body fluid that includes plasma, white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and growth factors, among others. Platelets are useful in clotting, but they also contain a number of growth factors. These proteins are useful in healing injuries reducing inflammation.

PLATELET RICH PLASMA (PRP)

To create Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), we draw a sample of your blood into a syringe. That syringe contains an anti-coagulant to keep the blood from clotting. The blood is then spun in a centrifuge so as to separate out the components. Red blood cells will spin down to the bottom. The top layer is the plasma, and a middle layer is called the “buffy coat.” The plasma and buffy coat can then be spun again to further concentrate platelets, thereby creating the PRP used in our regenerative medicine treatment in Gainesville. The collection of red blood cells is discarded.

Stem Cells and Exosomes

Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. Stem cells can be “totipotent”, “pluripotent”, and “multipotent”. Totipotent cells form all the cells in the body. These are the cells that are present just after a sperm fertilizes an egg. After a few cell divisions, those new cells are called pluripotent. These cells are slightly more differentiated; these are the embryonic stem cells. Multipotent cells develop into more than one cell type, but they are more limited, usually developing along a cell “line”. These are adult stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells. Advanced Pain Medical Center uses multipotent stem cells. These are donated by a mother at the delivery of her healthy baby.

Stem Cell and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy: Your Body’s Secret Weapon

What are stem cells?

An individual begins as a single cell organism, made up of the combination of an egg and a sperm. That one cell will divide over and over again. Eventually, those cells will become different things: bone, nerve, blood, skin, and so forth. Cells that can grow into anything are called stem cells, but even these cells have different potencies. In other words, they have different abilities to become anything, almost anything, and a bunch of things. See the difference?

Totipotent cells have the most differentiation potential: they can become anything. They occur extremely early in the development of the organism. Pluripotent cells are slightly more limited, in that they can differentiate into one of three germ layers: the endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm. These are the embryonic stem cells. Multipotent cells differentiate into a variety of cells within a certain category. For example, a multipotent blood cell could become a red blood cell or a white blood cell, but it could not become a neuron or a bone. Injected stem cells are of the multipotent type.

blood cells

How do stem cells work?

Previously, people believed that stem cells would become the substance into which they were injected. That is, if stem cells were injected into the knee, they became joint fluid and cartilage. If they were injected into the discs, they became nucleus pulposus (the juicy center). We have since learned that this isn’t the primary method of action; this only occurs to a limited degree. The stem cells and PRP coordinate and stimulate the innate healing ability within the body. As we age, this innate ability declines. Consider that we don’t need to inject children with these therapies because the children have enough healing ability on their own! We also don’t find profound success in treating 90 year olds because there isn’t much innate healing ability there.

stem cell research

What Can Stem Cell Therapy & Platelet Rich Plasma Treat?

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of chronic joint pain. Osteoarthritis involves the entire joint, including the nearby muscles, underlying bone, ligaments, and connective tissue. In osteoarthritis, the supportive tissue called cartilage degenerates, leading to inflammation and pain. This type of arthritis is common in shoulders, hips, knees, hands, and feet. Patients will often complain of joint stiffness, throbbing, and swelling. In spite of the fact that there is no cure for osteoarthritis, regenerative medicine might be very helpful as the “next revolution in medicine”. Regenerative medicine therapies such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy are part of a new generation of treatments that have been proven to be safe, effective, and long-lasting.

Stem cells can also treat the pain of degenerative disc disease.

Why Choose Regenerative Therapy?

Current medical therapies work reasonably well, but there are pitfalls. In the treatment of pain, we commonly choose anti-inflammatories, opiates, and steroid injections. But…

  • Anti-inflammatories are associated with gastrointestinal problems (like ulcers and reflux) and kidney damage.
  • Opiates are habit-forming and can cause short-term memory loss, hormonal changes, and constipation. In the long-term, these medicines can worsen pain, and they are associated with many overdose deaths.
  • Steroids, and the local anesthetics (numbing medicine) used with them, will eventually break down joints.

Ultimately, surgery is often recommended. Even after a surgical, anatomic correction, pain may still persist. The need for surgery can be greatly reduced by treating injured tissues before the damage progresses. Because the goal of regenerative therapy is to heal the pain and not just block it, it could prove to have lasting results.

However, researchers and physician scientists are always searching for newer, better therapies. Today, those therapies include the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and adult autologous or allogenic stem cells. Several top-tier athletes have used these therapies, and they have credited the treatment with a speedier return to competition. Regenerative medicine procedures are ideal for individuals who face ailments such as:

  • tendonitis,
  • ACL injuries,
  • arthritis of the knee, hip, or shoulder,
  • rotator cuff tears, tennis elbow, hip bursitis, patellar tendon injury, plantar faciitis, and achilles tendon injury.

runner

Were do we get the stem cells?

There are two ways to get the stem cells. First, we take them from the patient. People typically have a good concentration of easily accessible stem cells in our bone marrow. The best access point is the iliac crest of the pelvis. Unfortunately, as we age, we have fewer and fewer of our own stem cells circulating. This partially explains why we don’t heal as well as we get older. It also means that using our own stem cells (if we don’t have that many anyway) may not be a great idea. It might be better to use donated (allogenic) tissue, which is the second way to get the stem cells.

High concentrations of stem cells are found in placental tissues and amniotic fluid. These stem cells are taken from tissues acquired from living, healthy donors after full term pregnancy and at a scheduled Cesarean section. Another source is the baby’s umbilical cord blood. This is collected at delivery, as well. The tissues mentioned above are minimally processed and preserved to maintain the natural properties of the tissues. Both clinical and scientific studies show that these tissues support soft tissue repair, reduce inflammation, and minimize scar tissue formation. These tissues include a number of structural proteins, growth factors, and cytokines, which promote cellular proliferation, new collagen formation, and reduce inflammation.

Stem Cell Therapy or PRP ? Why would I choose one over another?

We know that stem cells show more promise than PRP. They are the “seeds”, whereas PRP is the “fertilizer.” For a likely better outcome, stem cells are the recommended option. When comparing stem cells, there are no head-to-head studies. Essentially, it comes down to your preference. Here are some things to consider about each option:

  • Bone marrow
    Since it comes from you, there is no infection risk. It is the use of your own body’s cells and growth factors. There is also no need to separately draw blood to make PRP. However, older patients don’t have as many stem cells in their bone marrow, so this option may be suboptimal. Also, it requires that the physician aspirate it from your hip (which isn’t usually as bad as people think!).
  • Amniotic tissue
    This is taken from a healthy, screened, donated placenta. Due to legal issues, the tissue bank cannot report the number of stem cells, but it is said to be high. Additionally, there are quite a bit of growth factors included in the product. However, it must be ordered, so this will increase the cost of the therapy. Also, a higher cost will be incurred if you choose to mix this with your own PRP (arguably improving the clinical outcome), versus the option of mixing it with saline, for your injection.
  • Umbilical cord blood
    This is also taken from a healthy, screened donor. This product contains very high concentrations of stem cells. However, it also must be ordered, which will increase the cost of the injection. And, you must again decide whether to mix it with your own PRP, at a higher cost, or simply in saline.
  • Adipose (fat) tissue
    This is taken from the abdomen in a liposuction procedure. This option is not mentioned elsewhere because we do not offer it. Presently, the FDA has taken the position that the product is not “minimally processed”, so it should not be used in this way. Regardless, many clinics still offer it. We choose to defer for now.
Would I be a good candidate?

couple runningRegenerative therapies are superior to our standard therapies. However, they are not perfect, and they are not miracles. The therapies may have to be repeated in the future, and there is no guarantee of success. Severe disease will not usually respond very well. Furthermore, patients at an advanced age will not have the good response a younger person would likely have. As we age, we have fewer stem cells of our own. Therefore, there is less natural healing for the injected stem cell to coordinate. Still, it is appealing to use a natural, anabolic (building up) therapy instead of our more common catabolic (breaking down) therapies.

Additional Information about Regenerative Therapies
Q: What is “autologous” vs. “allogenic”?

A: Autologous means that cells come from the patient. An autologous stem cell treatment involves the use of taking a patient’s stem cells from his or her bone marrow found in the hip. The bone marrow is centrifuged, which concentrates the regenerative products. Then, this is injected into the target area.

Allogenic means that the treatment comes from another human. In this case, we commonly use umbilical cord blood donated at a healthy baby delivery. The lab collects the product, tests it for infection, and sends it to us. Note that we do not offer adipose-derived (fat-derived) stem cells, as the FDA does not consider the process (351) used to handle these as “minimally manipulated”.

Q: What are Exosomes?

A: Exosomes are very small vesicles that have been discovered to be involved in cellular communication. Since we understand regenerative therapy to be a “signaling” therapy, the use of substances that are involved in cellular communication is quite helpful. We believe exosomes have strong signaling potential. Exosomes are derived from umbilical cord blood.

Q: What Are Stem Cells?

A: Stem cell therapy is one of the most fascinating areas of medicine. Many doctors have recognized that this therapy has the potential to treat various diseases and ailments by producing healthy new cells and tissue in the patient’s body. Stem cell therapy is an excellent pain treatment because it promotes regeneration of wounds and tissue damage after an ailment or an injury.

Our physicians at Advanced Pain Medical Center will discuss with you the conditions that can be treated by this type of therapy.

Recovery Time

All of our procedures are performed in our office. If you receive sedation, the recovery is only a matter of hours. After the procedure, you may experience some soreness at the injection site for a couple of days. It is not uncommon for patients to feel stiff and sore for longer than this, even for a week. Patients who undergo regenerative therapy treatments will often be sore for a longer period of time than compared to the soreness associated with a steroid injection.

Costs and Benefits

Insurance usually does NOT cover the cost of these procedures. While regenerative therapies have been used for years, they are still considered investigational. Therefore, insurance does not typically cover any of the costs. The cost of a regenerative therapy procedure varies based on your treatment case. Payment will be required in full prior to the injection.

Procedures typically take less than an hour, and they relieve pain without the risks of surgery, general anesthesia, or hospital stays. Most patients are able to return to work the next day. You may be a candidate for this cutting-edge treatment. Let us help you find a solution to your pain! Contact Us using the form on this page to schedule a Free consultation or call 352-888-PAIN.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

IS REGENERATIVE MEDICINE RIGHT FOR YOU?