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In a study that could eventually be a regenerative medicine game changer, British researchers from the University of Birmingham have developed a method for regenerating human bone and tissue by using nano-scale structures to encourage the human body to replace lost tissue more effectively. The technology is years away from being approved, but the future implications researchers are now thinking about could significantly alter how we use stem cell therapy.
Apex Biologix currently offers stem cell training to doctors looking for new ways to treat certain conditions like osteoarthritis. Many of these conditions would be affected by future approval of the British technology. To get a better understanding of this technology, we will focus on osteoarthritis for the remainder of this post.
As you already know, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that results in the loss of the vital tissue necessary to keep joints moving freely. One of the many symptoms of osteoarthritis is chronic pain. We teach doctors to relieve that pain through PRP and stem cell therapies that encourage the body to replace lost tissue.
The University of Birmingham researchers discovered that they could stimulate human cells to naturally produce the previously mentioned structures. These structures are called vesicles. In biology terms, a vesicle is a small extracellular structure with multiple functions, one of which is to help individual cells organize cellular substances.
Researchers surmised that if they could harness vesicles and ‘purify’ them, the resulting material could be used in regenerative medicine to encourage the growth of new tissue. Their efforts focused on the idea of growing new tissue that could be used for multiple patients, rather than the autologous methods we currently train doctors in.
An autologous procedure harvests stem cell material from the patient being treated. That material is then processed and injected at the treatment site. The fact that each patient donates his or her own stem cell material is that which makes the procedures autologous. University of Birmingham researchers were after something entirely different.
They wanted to get beyond the limits of autologous treatment to generate tissue and bone that could be implanted in any patient. They believe vesicles are one of the keys to making this a reality. Their efforts have shown that purified vesicles can be deployed to encourage stem cells to regenerate tissue that is not specific to any one donor, thereby making it possible to use the tissue to treat multiple patients.
For all the criticism regenerative medicine receives, it is research like this that keeps us moving forward with PRP and stem cell training. We are excited enough about the procedures we teach because we know they work. We also know that untold numbers of patients have been successfully treated with them in the past. But we are equally excited to see the new frontiers of medicine being opened by researchers around the world.
Regenerative medicine has the potential to completely transform modern healthcare away from a system that places too much emphasis on pharmaceutical and surgical treatments. Regenerative medicine offers an alternative way to treat patients based on a model of self-healing rather than mere symptom management.
If the Birmingham research proves effective years from now, we could be looking at eliminating a whole host of orthopedic surgeries. We could be realistically looking at a way to dramatically reduce the use of pain medication as well. And these things are just the start. Who knows what we are capable of if we can ever reach a point of regenerating pure tissue in the lab?