Regenerative Medicine is an area of medicine that focuses on using the patient’s own biology to heal. It can include the regeneration of tissues or organs, but also can include alleviating pain, restoration of function, and preservation of youthfulness.
When focusing on regenerating tissues, there are typically 3 elements that are needed: living cells, biologic scaffold, and cellular signaling. Much like making a home you need: the structure (walls, floor, roof); the utilities to communicate within the structure and between structures (water, electricity, phone, etc.); and people (to maintain the structure or utilities in case of breakdown).
Newborns have tremendous regenerative properties. Their cellular activity, deposition of biologic scaffold and cellular signaling is highly tuned for growing and healing tissue. As we get older we heal less efficiently. Things such as diet, poor circulation, environmental factors and overuse can get in the way of the healing process. The most common stage of healing that is affected by aging is the inflammatory phase. This is like the beginning of a battle. If well orchestrated, the battle will be won quickly, but if not it can linger and become what is called “Chronic”. One big factor in the inflammatory phase is communicating with a crucial cell in the wound, fibroblasts (blast = build, Fibro= Fibrous or soft tissue). Fibroblasts can lay down or build many different tissue types. If there is poor communication or the fibroblasts get confused, they lay down tissue in a disorganized fashion, or scar tissue.
If a wound is chronic or an area has previously healed with poor outcomes, a healthcare professional will “recreate an injury”. This is usually called debridement or ablative treatments. They can use sharp instruments, lasers, or chemicals to destruct the current tissue in hopes of starting the healing process over.
A growing space in regenerative medicine is providing cellular signals including growth factors within the early healing process or inflammatory phase to promote more desired/ constructive healing. This has the potential to stimulate your body to heal more effectively than it could without the signals. Two highly used source of signals or growth factors comes from Platelet Rich Plasma or amniotic membrane.