The Future of Pain Medicine - Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is a novel concept in the healthcare industry. Over the past few years, it has emerged as a potent alternative against osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain syndromes, and musculoskeletal pain that usually do not respond well to regular medicines. Stem cell therapy brings a new paradigm to modern healthcare practices that rely heavily on invasive procedures to treat even the slightest conditions.
Stem cells are referred to as undifferentiated cells in the human body that can replicate and distribute themselves into various tissue groups. They generate daughter cells through either symmetrical or asymmetrical cell division. The main idea behind using stem cells is to release neurotrophic factors that help eliminate neuropathic pain in the body.
The latest research reveals that stem cell therapy can reduce pain and improve physical activity in patients diagnosed with severe knee osteoarthritis. Some of the most common causes of osteoarthritis are cartilage degeneration and inflammation. This happens when the fluid present between the joints begins to dry up, leading to pain. Stem cells can help regenerate the cartilage, thereby reducing pain. It is also important to note that the repaired tissues have better cell arrangements.
Furthermore, stem cell therapy can also treat spinal cord injuries. According to a study, when stem cells derived from human bone marrow were intravenously administered to injured rats, they instantly deposited on the spinal cord. Gradually, the rats’ wounded spinal cords began to heal. However, it was also observed that some of the stem cells were also trapped in their lungs. Hence, it was concluded that it is critical to choose the right intrathecal route to achieve optimum results.
In addition to osteoarthritis and spinal cord injuries, stem cell therapy can also help diabetic peripheral neuropathy management. Recent research conducted on the neuropathic pain animal model suggested that stem cell transplantation positively impacted blood circulation and neuron signals. Stem cells were injected into the hind leg and were observed for up to sixteen weeks. This study revealed that type 1 diabetes patients who were part of this study did not need analgesics afterward. Moreover, their infected tissues made a remarkable recovery after nine months.
Based on research, it could be said that stem cell therapy possesses the significant potential to replace invasive procedures for several neurological disorders. However, patients are more likely to opt for this treatment if it has more data and offers effective results.
Han YH, Kim KH, Abdi S, Kim TK. Stem cell therapy in pain medicine. Korean J Pain 2019;32:245-255. https://doi.org/10.3344/kjp.2019.32.4.245.
Zhao L, Kaye AD, Abd-Elsayed A. Stem Cells for the Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis: A Comprehensive Review. Pain Physician. 2018 May;21(3):229-242. PMID: 29871367.