Stem cells have been a hot topic in medicine for many years and while there is considerable promise, at the moment, science has yet to make many effective applications. At the heart of this new technology are stem cells which are undifferentiated cells that can develop into almost any kind of cell including muscle, cartilage or nerves. Once fully developed, stem cell therapies could help patients with many forms of chronic pain.
For example, stem cells could be used to repair damaged spinal discs, helping alleviate chronic lower back pain. Currently, however, researchers are still refining the procedure so that patients have a relatively good chance of success. They are still trying to determine how many stem cells to introduce into the damaged area, what is the optimal injection method, and what type of stem cells pose the greatest chance of success.
While some important achievements have been made in stem cell research in recent years, like the discovery and harvesting of stem cells from adults, there are many more unanswered questions that make stem cells an untested science.
Most important, scientists are unsure of what risks may be inherent in the use of stem cells. One of the most recognized risks associated with stem cell implantation is cancerous growth. If the injected cells begin growing out of control, they could produce tumors. Another obstacle is engendering proper differentiation; without precise control, implanted stem cells could develop into foreign cells that are harmful to the surrounding tissue.
Given the immature state of stem cell research, it may be surprising to learn that there are so many clinics here and abroad advertising new stem cell therapies. Most of these organizations are making false claims, and the more legitimate ones will only offer experimental treatment options with no guarantee of success.
Although the current level of stem cell research is disheartening for many chronic pain sufferers seeking an immediate cure, there is a lot to be optimistic about. Stem cells possess immense therapeutic potential because of two amazing properties.First they can reproduce almost without limit, providing a limitless supply of pluripotent tissue. Secondly, they can differentiate into almost any cell type.
These amazing cells have proven successful in a limited number of clinical trials. In 2012, embryonic stem cells were transplanted into two legally blind patients’ retinas. A few short months later, both patients exhibited a miraculous improvement in visual acuity due to regeneration of retinal pigment epithelial cells.
These kinds of scientific breakthroughs suggest that there is enormous potential for stem cells in various chronic pain treatments. Potentially, stem cells could offer relief for both nociceptive (injury-related) or neuropathic (nerve damaged) pain. In nociceptive pain cases, stem cells could be used to heal damaged tissue like joint cartilage; this would diminish inflammation and inhibit pain impulses to the brain. For neuropathic cases, stem cells could grow into new nerves, replacing damaged and malfunctioning neural pathways, or treat the underlying causes of neuropathy like diabetes.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.