Ask-a-Doctor: What is Regenerative Medicine?

Chad Smalley, MD

Chad Smalley, MD

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Dr. Chad Smalley, Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics, explains what regenerative medicine is and what physicians hope it can do for patients in this week’s Ask-a-Doctor.

Q: What is regenerative medicine? Will it help my arthritis?

A: Regenerative medicine is an exciting, cutting-edge technique that utilizes biologic living and functional tissue to replace or repair damaged or diseased tissues caused by musculoskeletal injury often seen in chronic conditions such as arthritis, tendinopathy or muscular inflammation. These procedures safely utilize a patient’s own cells to provide relief.

There are three primary forms of regenerative medicine:

› Platelet-rich plasma. Known as PRP, this form uses a patient’s own blood to provide growth factors and other helpful proteins that are introduced into a damaged joint to encourage healing and reduce inflammation.

› Adipose-Derived cell therapies. This form uses fat cells, which have a high concentration of stem cells and growth factors in them, to decrease inflammation and aid in healing.

› Bone marrow aspirate.

Bone marrow is rich in growth factors and stem cells and is able to replicate itself into various types of musculoskeletal tissue necessary for healing.

Regenerative medicine techniques generally involve minimally invasive procedures to collect the cells and then transfer them into the diseased or injured joints, making the procedure much easier on the patient and with very little downtime when compared to traditional surgeries. Using regenerative medicine, a patient can harness the power of their own biology to help reduce symptoms and encourage regeneration.

We are optimistic that long-term studies will prove these procedures help with current symptoms, but as importantly, work to slow down the rate of degeneration that we are all subject to as we age. It’s an exciting development in the treatment of musculoskeletal disease and joint injuries. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, regenerative medicine could very well help you.

— Chad Smalley, M.D., Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society