It seems like for every chronic medical condition that has hitherto been relegated to disease management, we are finding a use for stem cells to help address underlying causes and provide more lasting cures. Regenerative Medicine is the use of growth factors or stem cells derived from the patient or donor sources in order to stimulate the body’s innate healing capacity. Many body parts have a limited capacity to heal based on limitations in blood flow, chronic inflammation, and the formation of scar tissue. Using growth factors and stem cells, we can overcome these limitations by supplying the necessary ingredients for healing directly to the area.
Local injections of stem cells and growth factors can start healing in areas as diverse as musculoskeletal conditions, hair regrowth, facial rejuvenation, erectile dysfunction, scars, wound healing, and more. Using more advanced techniques of cell isolation, we are able to treat more systemic degenerative conditions by infusing stem cells and growth factors intravenously. These have a systemic effect on the immune system and can re-initiate healing in areas that had previously been thought to be chronically injured.
Recent research published May of 2017 in Cell by researchers at UCSF demonstrated that using stem cells for hair regrowth has revealed that the process of regeneration is more complex then simply injecting stem cells into the area that you are trying to stimulate growth and repair. It turns out that for hair to start to regenerate there are specific immune cells that are responsible for activating stem cells in the area. The exact mechanisms of regulating these immune cells were not detailed in the article but previous research shows that genes linked to hair loss are related to the same type of immune cell dysfunction.
In my experience, there are common pathways that mediate immune dysfunction and any medication or gene therapy that bypasses addressing these common pathways is missing the point. The underlying causes of Immune dysfunction stem from over stimulation of the immune system from chronic infections and food/chemical sensitivities, nutrient and hormone deficiency, toxic burden, metabolic dysfunction, excessive stress, chronic pain, lack of sleep and either over-training or de-conditioning. Addressing these underlying causes requires expertise in Functional Medicine. Aside from optimizing the host, many conditions require optimal medical management in order to prevent further decompensation.
For instance, a good conventional medical doctor will pick up on sleep apnea causing hypertension and prescribe a CPAP machine to maintain open airways at night and may be able to help lower blood pressure without using medicine.
An integrative medical doctor may help you treat sleep apnea by helping you to lose weight by optimizing nutrition, hormones, gastro-intestinal health, detoxification, metabolic health, stress levels, treating chronic pain and associated musculoskeletal strain patterns, and reconditioning. With sustained weight loss and progress in the above domains, in many cases we won’t need a CPAP machine to maintain open airways at night in order to prevent the need for hypertensive medicines.
In the case of Sleep Apnea, using an assistive device (CPAP) to maintain open airways at night can be part of the solution because untreated sleep apnea can make all of the underlying causes of sleep apnea worse. There are structural causes as well that may require referral to maxillofacial specialists or ENT doctors. Integrative Medicine means knowing when to make the appropriate referral and utilizing the full spectrum of medical care necessary to achieve effective and sustainable solutions for medical problems.
If we come back to hair loss, we now know that injecting stem cells into a scalp that has immune dysfunction is ineffective. This illustrates the necessity of the inter-relationship between Regenerative Medicine and Integrative Medicine, which is the prudent combination of Functional medicine and Modern Bio-Medicine. The San Francisco Institute For Integrative and Regenerative Medicine is dedicated to pioneering the intersection of these two novel fields that build on a solid foundation of the latest breakthroughs in modern bio-medicine.