Much of the credit for his return is being given to “regenerative medicine.” The field of regenerative medicine involves the use of stem cells to repair or replace damaged tissues. Regenerative medicine is based on recent breakthroughs in cell biology and presents seemingly endless possibilities toward the treatment of injuries and disease.
Stem cells are key elements in this exciting new field. Stem cells are found in organisms and have the ability to differentiate into various tissues. The most vivid example occurs in embryonic development but adult stem cells can be found in a variety of tissues.
Bone marrow is an abundant source of stem cells. Transplanting compatible stem cells between individuals has become fundamental in treating cancers that involve blood cells.
Orthopedic applications of regenerative medicine involve the repair and regeneration of tendons and ligaments. These procedures require a scaffold to build on, growth factors and stem cells. Finding the right combination of these essential items continues to be a formidable challenge.
“The science behind regenerative procedures is very solid but no one has been able to successfully apply these elements to the satisfaction of the FDA and insurance companies,” said Dr. Michael Joyce, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports-related injuries. Until then, he warns that athletes must be wary of ineffective, expensive substitutes.
Regenerative medicine will likely play a role in the treatment of athletic injuries in the future but at this time the only thing these procedures seem to regenerate is an athlete’s confidence.