ALLURE MEDICAL - all•u Magazine all·u Magazine Spring 2018 - Page 30

FEATURE: HEALTHCARE CHANGES THE NEW APPROACH TOWARDS HEALTHCARE AND MEDICINE We’re now pioneering a new type of medicine (which aims to “cure or replace” rather than “manage or decrease” the symptoms of disease) called regenerative medicine. The National Institutes of Health refers to regenerative medicine as the process of repairing or replacing “tissue or organ function lost due to age, disease damage or congenital [birth] defects.” (2) In contrast to the old approach, this new approach promises to focus on the root causes of disease and begin healing by regenerating diseased tissue and organs. THE THREE BREAKTHROUGHS LEADING TO THIS NEW FRONTIER Today, we’re learning more about how the body maintains itself and its youth, and how we can reactivate those natural healing tendencies that decline as we age. Three breakthroughs in the past decade have catapulted our understanding of youth, disease, and aging: 1. YOUTHFUL HORMONES As we age, our youthful hormones tend to decline. I’ve written a book for men and one for women to explain the science of youthful hormones and how they impact our longevity and quality of life. 2. OUR MICROBIOME We have one set of DNA, yet our bodies contain over a hundred trillion microorganisms—each with their own DNA. There’s now overwhelming evidence that the bacteria living in our bodies are more responsible for health and disease than we once thought. 3. CELLULAR MEDICINE We have cells that lie dormant in our bodies until they’re called upon to do things. These cells were designed to help us heal rapidly. Stem cells, in particular, are present in every organ and tissue of our bodies. But with a few exceptions, we really didn’t know how to activate them to repair or replace tissues when they’re not doing their job. Briefly, a stem cell is a cell that can convert into any cell type. For example, your DNA can program stem cells to transform into different cell types such as hair follicles, skin, memory cells, and toxin-filtering cells. Each of these mature cell types eventually goes through a process called apoptosis, which is the natural death of cells that occurs as a normal function of our bodies. When apoptosis occurs, a stem cell that’s adjacent to the dying cell then acts to replace that specialized cell. This is the natural process of regeneration and happens in every part of your body. Regenerative medicine is aimed at using stem cells therapeutically to help repair or replace damaged tissues and organs. This approach is in stark contrast to allopathic medicine, which has been aimed at decreasing the symptoms associated with organ and tissue damage. WHAT STEM CELL THERAPY LOOKS LIKE IN PRACTICE Stem cell therapy currently refers to obtaining stem cells from one part of the body and deploying them into damaged tissues or organs. To give an example, let’s discuss the most common form of stem cell treatment to date. Arthritis of the knee is a condition where the cartilage that protects and lubricates the knee has worn away. When the stem cells in the cartilage fail to act, this leads to cartilage breakdown and eventually “bone-on-bone” arthritis. Conventional medical treatment would involve injecting anti-inflammatory medications or lubrication into the joints to relieve pain, or merely taking pain pills. But if these methods fail to provide relief, the joint would eventually need to be replaced with an artificial metal joint. Stem cells are the primary focus of this new approach to healthcare. With stem cell therapy, we can now take cells from our bone marrow and fat and inject them into the knee directly— thus stimulating cartilage regrowth. THE STEM CELL AS A THERAPEUTIC AGENT This type of therapy is already happening around the world. We’ve known about stem cells for decades. And while stem cell therapy is rapidly 30 SPRING 2018