From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Regenerative medicine was discovered some years ago after rigorous search for solutions to ailments that seem to have “proven stubborn” or refused to respond to the efficacy of conventional medicines.
Just as the case in other fields of endeavour where daily research continue to birth new things to enhance life and living, researchers in the field of medicine have been relentless in their search for better and improved ways of providing medical solutions to health issues in the world.
Advanced medical services have tested, evaluated and proven the efficacy of regenerative medicine in the treatment of certain categories of ailments that might have resisted the “fire power” of conventional medicine.
Some of the ailments are related to female/male sexual dysfunction, joint pains, neck and back, acute stroke, Autism and other related ailments.
Regenerative medicine is not a replacement for other branches of medicine but, like other innovations in medicine, it can add value to other forms of medicines. For example, a patient with a displaced fracture needs the intervention of an orthopedic surgeon and not regenerative medicine. However, regenerative medicine can be added during or after orthopedic surgery to accelerate the healing process.
What is regenerative medicine?
Medical books defined regenerative medicine as a branch of medicine developed to restore normal body function by repairing or replacing damaged or malfunctioning cells and tissues in patients who have lost tissue or organ function due to age, disease, or congenital defects. It comprises different components including, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy and Adult Stem Cell (ASC) Therapy.
Conventional medicines uses anything from conservative management to respond to ailments, as well as the use of medication, or surgery at the other extreme to help maintain good health or get as close to it, as possible.
Regenerative medicine leverages the body’s natural healing mechanisms and attempts to accentuate their effects by increasing their availability to the specific organs needing regeneration. It has the ability to harness the body’s natural healing mechanisms using adult stem cell therapy, a subcategory of regenerative medicine and minimising adverse effects. This confers on regenerative medicine a considerably greater safety profile than conventional medicine.
How it functions
Studies have shown that the scope of application is broad and multi-systemic, meaning that it can be used for various systems and functions in the body. The exceptions are diseases of a non-degenerative nature such as genetic or chromosome-related diseases.
Nonetheless, people with such challenges will witness a reduction or improvement in symptoms even though the ailment is not cured. Healthy people could use regenerative medicine for anti-ageing to feel stronger and healthier as well as look younger as they age.
United States based Emory Healthcare claims that 75 to 80 per cent of patients have had significant pain relief and improved function after using the regenerative medicines. Also, a United States Mayo Clinic website wrote that 40 to 70 per cent of patients find some level of pain relief using some of the regenerative medicine protocols.
The success rate has been generally high both in the USA and Nigeria at all the available centres, even though the results differ from one patient to another. And some other centres do have low success rates. Some patients experience initial delay in the effectiveness of treatment, or needing additional or second treatment sessions before they begin to see positive results.
Whichever way, it’s important to know that there is no guarantee in medicine despite the hype surrounding adult stem cell therapy or regenerative medicine as a whole. It does not work 100 per cent all the time. Nonetheless, there’s a very high success rate among the patients with non-bleeding acute stroke when treatment is done within a couple of days to few weeks, with the goal of preventing permanent residual symptoms post stroke.
This was evident in all non-hemorrhagic acute stroke patients that were treated. The general rule of thumb is that the earlier the treatment is given in acute injuries, the higher the success rate.
Availability and acceptability in Nigeria
Dr. David Ikudayisi is Medical Director, Glory Wellness and Regenerative Centre, Lagos and Abuja. He is a certified Internist with passion for regenerative, aesthetic and cosmetic medicine. He confirmed that there’s impressive interest among Nigerians as regards the therapy:
“However, the challenge is poor awareness level of the benefits among Nigerians. We need to spread the word on the availability of the therapy in Nigeria because many people may need it. There’s a great enthusiasm on the impressive potential of the therapies worldwide. While it’s becoming a part of the status quo of modern medicine, the endless potentials have continued to encourage more research to unravel it. This has resulted in even more ground breaking findings on the application of regenerative medicine.
“As with any new dogma or ideas in medicine, there are pockets of opposition from well-minded medical professionals with traditional academic skepticism or big-pharma fueled adverse policy for economic interests. But the reality is that two decades of research has shown the safety and efficacy of the use of regenerative medicine.”
Ikudayisi said: “At our centre, we have seen so many success stories. We treated patients with complex quadriplegia (two years old injury before our involvement due to partial transection of cervical spinal cord) and another with over nine years with cerebral palsy, both of whom have gained the ability to move some of their extremities independently.
“We have also seen patients with uncontrolled diabetes with hypertension who now have blood pressures and hemoglobin A1C levels within the normal range as a result of the treatment. We have also seen great results in patients treated for sexual dysfunction, pain in their joints, neck and back, and acute stroke especially when the acute stroke is treated very early to prevent permanent residual symptoms.”
He said all patients with autoimmune disorders can also benefit from regenerative medicine but they will need continuous treatments to maintain the relief of the symptoms. He added that Autistic patients in Nigeria are also benefiting from it, especially if the cause is autoimmune related, since up to 25 per cent of the autistic spectrum disorder could be caused by autoimmune diseases.
Similarly, patients with chronic kidney disease in the early stages are not left out, but they will need more than one treatment session: “One of the many joys we get is talking to people about their ailments and seeing how regenerative medicine can play a role in rejuvenating their health.”
He said many of the patients treated with regenerative solutions are always delighted at the results: “We get a great number of them who are so pleasantly surprised by the outcome, as they also see improvements in areas they did not even think to mention to us.
“It’s noteworthy that the therapeutic benefits they have received from regenerative medicine have been practically impossible with conventional medicine, hence their satisfaction, joy, and excitement. An example was the case of a man with left testicular atrophy (the shrinking of testicles, which are the two male reproductive glands located in the scrotum) and low testosterone (a male hormone).
“After one session of autologous treatment, the left testicle grew back to normal size and the production of testosterone significantly increased. People who have infertility issues, both male and female, should not give up without considering the regenerative medicine protocol, especially those women that have tried In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF).”
Ikudayisi said the medication is relatively expensive due to the demand on medical manpower and the present cost of required materials. However, the costs are gradually coming down which, hopefully, is sustained and accelerated so that more people can benefit:
“Our goal is to get these treatments to as many people as possible. This involves finding ways to reduce cost without compromising on value. Whenever possible, we notify Nigerians.”
He suggested alternative options of treatment with varying costs which make the treatments ultimately accessible to more people. The biggest price reduction, he said, is for people with pain in their peripheral joints, female and male sexual dysfunction, female urinary incontinence, chronic non-healing wounds, facial acne and uneven skin tone:
“Similarly, middle class to low income patients in Nigeria have benefited from some regenerative medicine protocols. Regardless of the cost of the procedure, you cannot put a price tag on a human life. Human life is priceless. As the famous adage goes, ‘Your health, your wealth.’
Regenerative medicine against COVID-19
It was gathered that one of the regenerative medicine protocol was approved for COVID-19 purposes: leveraging its immune modulatory effect to calm the potentially fatal “cytokine storm” of the disease. It also has the benefit of preventing or limiting lung scarring.
Another protocol is in the early phase of clinical trial. It’s evident that regenerative medicine can play a role in the reduction of many of the adverse effects caused by COVID-19.
Ikudayisi believed that the future of regenerative medicine is inevitable, and that “conventional medicine” will only have to catch up as it usually does to new discoveries in medicine:
“The more people get to hear and know about the merits and see the evidence, it will not be long before it becomes the norm. It starts with everyday people and medical professionals doing their due diligence and doing their research.”