By Ted Swing, Ph.D.
Physical strain, injury, aging and other medical conditions can damage bodily tissues such as the lower back, knees, hips or shoulders, and the body may not be able to heal this damage on its own, leading to chronic pain. Regenerative treatments are designed to aid the process of healing the damage that causes such pain. To bring you the latest regenerative treatments, we’ve launched the Arizona Pain Stem Cell Institute, a division of Arizona Pain Specialists. Our treatments will include the following.
Stem cells are cells capable of differentiating into many different types of body tissues (bone, muscle, skin, organs, etc.) depending on the surrounding cells. These cells are involved not only in early development, but also in our ability to heal throughout our lifespans.
Stem cells can have somewhat different properties depending on where they are obtained. Though stem cells are often associated with human embryos, they can also be safely obtained from placental or amniotic tissues collected at childbirth, or from different parts of the adult body, such as bone marrow, fat or blood. Stem cells also differ in that they may be obtained from a donor (allograft) or they can come from the same person receiving the treatment (autograft).
The Mesoblast disc-repair low back pain study of stem cells that we are taking part in, for example, uses stem cells from adult bone marrow taken from donors (allograft). As part of the Arizona Pain Stem Cell Institute, we will also be offering injection with stem cells obtained from patients’ own bone marrow (autograft). This requires the extraction of marrow from the patients’ hip bone as part of the procedure.
Amniotic Tissue Therapy
Amniotic tissues can be collected at birth without harm to the infant or mother. These tissues not only contain stem cells, but also a matrix of connective tissues. When placed at the site of an injury, this collagen matrix assists the body in regenerating by serving as scaffolding that new tissues are built around.
We offer treatments with injections of AmnioGenic FLOW Therapy, an Applied Biologics product. This involves the injection of amniotic tissues that are collected during planned caesarian births, screened for safety and preserved.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
Platelets are a component of blood that is often associated with closing a wound to stop bleeding. Platelets also help healing in other ways. For example, they are full of growth factors and proteins that the body uses in rebuilding tissues.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is based around concentrating platelets, along with the associated healing factors, at a location in the body where they are needed most. This is done by drawing a small volume of blood from the patient. This blood is placed in a centrifuge to separate it into different components (red blood cells, platelet rich plasma and platelet poor plasma). The platelet-rich plasma is extracted and injected back into the patient at the site, where healing is desired — for example, into an injured knee.
Fibrin is a protein that forms a platelet-entangling mesh over tears in bodily tissues; this is crucial to forming blood clots and stopping bleeding. Some chronically painful conditions can be caused by a tear that does not heal on its own, for example, tears in the discs separating the vertebrae of the spine. By applying a fibrin sealant directly to the site of the tear, this can create a natural adhesive that binds and closes the tear.
The results of research on stem cells and other regenerative treatments have been promising. We feel these treatments will represent an important component of pain medicine in the future.
Please note that because regenerative treatments are at the forefront of medicine, they are often considered experimental and most insurance companies do not cover their use. In some cases, they may be offered through a clinical trial that pays for the cost of the treatment. Other studies will cover part of the cost, but patients must still cover some of the cost of the treatment.
Because regenerative treatments are experimental, doctors often recommend patients try other treatments first. However, for patients who have tried other treatments and continue to live with pain, regenerative treatments may offer an option for relief.
For more detailed information about these treatments, visit Azstemcell.com or speak with your pain specialist to learn whether a regenerative treatment may be appropriate for you. Feel free to send questions to me at Teds@arizonapain.com.
Ted Swing has more than nine years of research experience and four years of teaching experience in psychology, has published in top psychology and medical journals, and has presented his research at major conferences. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Iowa State University and has been the research director at Arizona Pain Specialists since May 2012.