Regenerative medicine is all the rage! It seems every big name celebrity and professional athlete is dipping into this new, almost magical sounding type of medical technology. Because of this, it’s easy to tune the news out. The stories all sound the same! Someone has a major injury or a chronic pain that they never expected to be free of but, though the power of regenerative medicine and stem cells, they’ve returned to health. With such miraculous results, there MUST be a catch! After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
And yet this fad continues! Which begs the question… is regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy a fad? Or is it here to stay?
In order to answer that question, we first have to ask what is regenerative medicine?
Regenerative medicine refers to a branch of medicine focused on replacing, repairing or engineering human tissues and organs. The goal is to return a severely damaged body part to normal levels of functionality by regenerating tissues, starting on a cellular level.
Regenerative medicine is largely dependent on stem cells to do their work. Unlike other cells in your body, stem cells are the unspecialized, meaning they do not perform a specialized task. Red blood cells, for instance, are specialized cells whose job is carrying oxygen around your body. Stem cells’ lone purpose is making more cells. When you hurt yourself, the adult stem cells within your body produce more specialized cells to replace those that can no longer do their job.
Stem cells’ healing properties can be hampered or slowed by either serious trauma or slow wear down of tissue. Sometimes degeneration is simply faster than regeneration. That is where stem cell therapy comes into play. By removing adult stem cells from within a patient’s body and injecting it into a damaged area of their body, doctors can encourage rejuvenation by temporarily boosting your body’s natural healing process.
When you hear about stem cells in the news, it is likely for one of two reasons: a research team made an interesting discovery with fascinating implications or a celebrity had a joint repaired.
In the case of experimental treatments or attention-grabbing study results, readers need to be careful. It is easy to get caught up in headlines but, if you dig into the stories to find more information, often the headlines refer to a single passing comment made by a researcher about possible uses FAR down the road if their research comes to fruition. The potential is exciting but it is just that. Potential. One day, it MIGHT happen. These treatments currently exist only in medical researchers’ imagination. We can all dream but it’s important to have realistic expectations if you do need medical treatment. Remarkable results on a cellular level or in mice doesn’t necessarily translate into viable human treatments.
We have all heard stories about people travelling abroad to receive stem cell treatments. Often, these are presented as lifesaving miracles. Unfortunately, this has encouraged stem cell tourism, wherein people take their lives into their own hands by seeking out unapproved medical treatments in foreign countries. Despite what you may have heard, this is a terrible, dangerous idea.
Regenerative medicine is not magic. It is science and medicine. That means it needs to be properly tested and regulated to keep you safe. If someone is promising miracles at a discount price, you need to be very skeptical as you could be putting yourself in terrible risk.
The approved stem cell treatments may be outside your budget, but they are commercially available! That makes these stories much more applicable to your own situation. As regenerative medicine and stem cell treatments become more common, you can expect to hear more anecdotes about people who have seen marked improvement in their own lives.
Are stem cells a celebrity craze? Will regenerative medicine go the way of Sketchers’ Shape-Ups and the baby food diet?
No. It won’t. Regenerative medicine has a long history and a bright future. While the media surrounding stem cell’s potential can be sensational, that doesn’t make their potential less exciting for medical researchers.
There are nearly boundless possibilities and plenty of legitimate options available today. You don’t need to be a celebrity to go to places like the Stem Cell Orthopedic Institute in San Antonio, Texas to receive stem cell injections. While you should take the stories you hear with a grain of salt, you shouldn’t overlook the possibility that regenerative medicine might hold the key to you improving your health in a very reasonable amount of time.