Regenerative medicine is the practice of repairing or replacing a patient’s cells, tissues or organs with the goal of restoring normal function. There are three primary approaches to regenerative medicine:
Tissue engineering is the process of growing body tissues in the laboratory and transplanting them into the patient.
Immunomodulation is the stimulation of regeneration in a patient’s tissues by the application, typically by injection, of biologically active substances.
Stem cell therapy.
The possibility of regeneration is transforming medical therapy. Other medical therapies allow us to relieve pain and inflammation, and kill bacteria and tumor cells. These therapies are effective and essential, but with the addition of regeneration to our medical repertoire we can help a patient’s body heal itself by stimulating the growth of healthy new tissues.
The bodies of complex organisms - human or animal - are made of cells. A typical healthy human body suffers the death of about 1.5 billion cells a day. We go on living because replacement cells are generated. These new cells are produced directly from and indirectly by stem cells. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells - they are cells that have not turned into specific body tissue types. They are found in nearly every type of tissue, including bone marrow, fat, skin, nerves and more.
Stem cells have the ability to:
Transform themselves into specific tissue types.
Find their way through the bloodstream to the sites of inflammation, injury and degeneration.
Secrete potent anti-inflammatory substances.
Secrete growth factors and other substances that support and stimulate the other cells in the tissues at the sites of illness or injury to heal; these factors block scar tissue formation and cell death, stimulate formation of new blood vessels, and recruit the local non-stem cells into the regenerative process.
There are three basic types of stem cells: embryonic, fetal, and adult. Adult stem cells are found in bone marrow, adipose tissue (fat), skin, nerves, liver, and blood vessels. It is possible to collect one of these tissues from a patient, process it to extract the stem cells it contains, and return them in a purified and activated form to the patient from whom they were obtained. This is the process of stem cell therapy.
Unlike embryonic and fetal stem cells, the use of adult stem cells taken from and returned to the same patient does not carry with it any moral or ethical concerns. Also, because they are taken from and returned to the same patient, their use is extremely safe; the chance of an allergic reaction is virtually zero.
For all of these reasons stem cells have become the primary focus of research in regenerative medicine. Their therapeutic use has been and is being investigated in all types of illnesses and injuries and in every body system. But stem cell therapy is not just theoretical and investigative. It has been commercially available since 2004, and thousands of veterinary patients have been treated, with great benefits for the majority of them. Yarmouth Veterinary Center is now offering this profoundly powerful medical therapy to our clients for treatment of their pets.
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