Athletes Turning To Regenerative Medicine Instead of Surgery
What is regenerative therapy?
It is a relatively new type of treatment which enables or enhances body’s own mechanisms for regeneration of a particular tissue or organ, in order to restore normal anatomy and function of that part of the body. The most significant types of regeneration therapy used for treating injuries are stem cells and platelet-rich plasma.
These cells are special. They are able to transform into any other type of cells, and are a crucial component of regenerative therapy. They are present in almost every organ, but currently they can be harvested only from bone marrow, fat tissue and circulating blood. Bone marrow stem cells are harvested from a patient’s own iliac bone, which is a part of the pelvis by using a needle under ultrasound or X-ray guidance. Fat tissue stem cells or adipose stem cells are collected by liposuction, and stem cells from circulating blood are collected by a needle from a vein.
In all of these procedures a small amount of blood containing stem cells is drawn. That blood is then processed in order to get concentrated stem cells, which can be injected directly into the injured tissue where they transform themselves. If they’re injected into the muscle tissue they transform into muscle tissue cells; if they’re injected into the connective tissue they transform into connective tissue cells, etc. Thus, by transforming and dividing themselves, stem cells regenerate the injured tissue.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
PRP is essentially blood with concentrated platelets. Platelets are blood cells which contain coagulation factors (participate in blood clotting) and growth factors (participate in tissue healing). Platelets are obtained from a patient’s own circulating blood by an ordinary needle and syringe. A part of that blood sample is centrifuged in order to separate and concentrate platelets. These elements are then mixed with the remaining part of the blood sample in order to get platelet-rich plasma. This PRP can then be injected directly into the injured or damaged tissue. Growth factors from platelets help the injured tissue heal as well as keep the previously injected stem cells active.
Can regenerative therapy be used together with surgical therapy?
Yes. A female MMA fighter Cathilee “Cat” Zingano injured her knee while training and had to undergo the anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. A normal recovery after this type of surgical procedure lasts for nine months on average. That was too long for Cat, so she decided to include regenerative therapy into her postoperative recovery. She received adipose stem cells injection, followed by PRP injections into her knee. That accelerated her physical therapy and overall recovery, helping her to remain one of the best female MMA fighters.
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