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Regenerative Medicine — Catching up With Nature

  June 02, 2017
By Alexander Germanis

With all of mankind’s great achievements and discoveries, we are still only just beginning to understand certain aspects of nature. One such natural mystery science is still trying to fully comprehend is that of regeneration.

Regeneration is best summed up as an organism being able to re-grow tissue that has been lost. A number of species have mastered the ability to re-grow entire parts of their bodies should they lose them. Certain lizards will willingly drop their tails as a defense mechanism, only to grow a new one within nine months. An entirely new starfish can grow from a single leg, should its nerve ring remain intact.

Founder of Millennium Pain Center, Dr. Ramsin Benyamin, believes medicine is lagging woefully behind nature in this aspect. A large portion of medicine, he says, lies in not fixing a problem with the human body but rather removing it. “I never understood this concept of having a disc herniation, for example, and then taking out the disc. You’re damaging the disc so that it will never again be normal. It’s going to degenerate.”

In some cases, that go-to move in medicine can be a necessity, particularly when the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, in the case of tonsillitis, the solution is to remove the tonsils; if it is appendicitis, remove the appendix.

“But in other cases, there is no necessity and the overall, long-term success is not significant,” Dr. Benyamin says. “Like with spine degeneration. If it’s a disc, fuse it or take it out. But it doesn’t work. That only causes more problems. 60 to 70 percent of our patients have had a previous surgery. So, mechanical intervention often does not solve the ailment and pain.”

It is, Dr. Benyamin explains, like the old adage of curing a headache by removing the head. Although it is a form of a solution, it is certainly a contraindicated one.

The doctor says there are those in the medical field who are taking a page out of Mother Nature’s manual and looking for ways to help the human body help itself. “Instead of cutting or removing or fusing or putting in screws — all these interventions with foreign bodies in there — our focus is changing to how we can identify the healing mechanisms the body has and how we can help expedite those.”

Regenerative medicine is not, as some overly imaginative people might think, a matter of genetic engineering, nor is it going to be like a science fiction experiment involving the injection of reptilian DNA in order to re-grow limbs. Doctors are instead looking for how elements already produced by the human body can be reapplied as more efficient solutions. These elements are called biologicals.

Two such biologicals already in use to some degree are platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells. Dr. Benyamin wants to stress, however, these biologicals are not obtained from any exterior sources like fetal tissue or donors. Both the PRP and stem cells are obtained from the body of the patient themselves.

PRPs are derived from a patient’s whole blood that has been put into a centrifuge, condensing the platelets into the plasma. The stem cells, Dr. Benyamin states, are obtained from other parts of the patient’s body, even from the patient’s body fat sometimes.

While the investigations into the use of these biologicals are still, essentially, in their infancy, there is a tremendous amount of research being done.

“What’s good about this regenerative medicine,” Dr. Benyamin concludes, “is at least we have switched the focus from interventions that actually expedite degeneration to interventions that may potentially help regeneration. So, we have changed our focus as far as treatment — trying to find ways we can help the body heal itself.”

To read more about the advances being made in regenerative medicine, read “Regenerative Medicine, Part 2” in next month’s Healthy Cells Magazine.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Millennium Pain Center at 309-662-4321, www.millenniumpaincenter.com. The office is located at 1015 S. Mercer Ave. in Bloomington. The practice provides advanced and comprehensive pain management for a wide variety of conditions. Drs. Benyamin and Vallejo have been selected among 70 of the Best Pain Physicians in America.

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June 02, 2017

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