Stem Cell Controversy
Two articles have recently been published in the New England Journal of Medicine addressing the use of stem cell therapy to treat macular degeneration. In one study three patients had complete vision loss as a result of their injections, in the other study one patient had responded favorably to stem cell injections, which halted his disease progression. The first article highlights the lack of regulation and risk inherent with this experimental therapy. The second article highlights the incredible potential of these new therapies.
At Regenirex we have added stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections to the many traditional treatments that we offer patients suffering from chronic pain. I would never consider these therapies for my patients if I didn’t feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. This is the same criteria I use for every procedure that I recommend to my patients, whether the therapy is an established medical therapy or a newer experimental therapy. In my opinion the regenerative therapies which we are offering are as safe as or safer than a traditional “cortisone” injection, which has been used for decades to treat spine and joint pain. Not only do I believe that these procedures are safe for my patients, I believe they are safe for me and my own family. In fact I have personally received injections with PRP in my knee, ankle, back and neck and I have performed PRP injections on my own family members as well.
We know that the initial cause of most joint and spine pain is inflammation. The vast majority of inflammation occurs from injury, but in some cases it arises from an autoimmune processes such as rheumatoid arthritis. Steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) interrupt the inflammatory process and decrease pain as a result. When the body is attacking itself, as is the case with autoimmune disease, it is a good idea to use a powerful immune suppressing drug such as a steroid to stop this process, but most inflammation occurs as a result of the body’s natural healing process. When tissues are damaged platelets are activated to form clots and initiate inflammation. Inflammation is the first step of the healing cascade and as such suppression of this natural process by steroids or NSAIDs may actually be making us more prone to chronic pain and re-injury. PRP and stem cells, derived from the patient, are a natural solution to help the body complete the healing process more effectively. There is no risk of a drug reaction, because no drugs are used. There is likely less risk of infection, since these substances help the immune system rather than suppress it. There are risks with regenerative injections, but it is my belief that these risks are no greater and likely less than existing treatments, which include surgery, narcotics, steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.