Oftentimes, when people think of regenerative medicine, the first therapy that comes to mind is one that involves stem cells, no matter what source they might be. And this makes sense, what with stem cells being the most widely used cellular therapy, as well as the one that has received the highest amount of press over the years, but people would be shocked to find that there are indeed multiple kinds of regenerative medicine therapies that are available to patients suffering from a wide variety of degenerative diseases– people are looking to exosomes and umbilical cord blood as possible treatment options.
Extracellular Vesicles and Exosomes
For a long time, one of the focuses of regenerative medicine has been to replace lost tissue with new cellular material or, in certain cases, improve the regeneration of damaged or diseased tissues or organs using stem cell transplantation. In light of this, the discovery of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the late twentieth century has been considered a significant development in the field of medicine. An extracellular vesicle is something that exists outside of the cells of the human body, and exosomes are a type of extracellular that shows extraordinary promise in treating inflammation, immunomodulation, cell-cell communication, and much more. Exosomes have been identified to be involved in many biological processes, including the communication and rejuvenation of all of the cells in the body, despite not being one itself.
Exosomes have also been discovered to be extremely important in maintaining a healthy cellular terrain– they are usually made by growing stem cells in culture and then disposing of the stem cells themselves, leaving behind the exosomes that are created in the process. Due to their incredibly small size, what is left behind after the stem cells have been removed has to be ultra-centrifuged to concentrate them– and they are made up of amino acids and RNA.
What is Exosome Therapy?
Exosome therapy is the novel use of exosomes in a clinical setting, and since its development it has very rapidly become one of the most popular areas of regenerative medicine treatment. Research has given us valuable insight into the practical functionality of exosomes, and how they can be used to treat many conditions. While stem cells are normally responsible for the rejuvenation of older cells, they may not always be able to supply all of the information needed for this process to take place.
It is here where exosome therapy takes hold. Many talented physicians and researchers have postulated that by supporting the function of exosomes within the body by introducing more into the patient in question, a greater positive effect could be obtained. Through this, a new piece of information could be obtained that enhances the healing process as we know it.
Exosome therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that is commonly used in those patients that present with orthopedic injuries, but that is not it’s only use. It is also commonly used in those that are looking for anti-aging medicine, or for the treatment of other degenerative diseases. Exosome treatments generally contain a combination of growth factors, messenger RNA, micro RNA, cytokines and other biologically active molecules. These are then used in conjunction with stem cell therapies to speed up the healing process within patients. These exosome therapies can be administered directly into the affected area, but they can also be administered intravenously for those that are looking to make use of the anti-aging properties of exosomes.
Exosome injections are normally administered directly into the part of the patient’s body that is marred by symptoms or disease, and the dosing for every patient varies based on the condition and treatment plan– because of this, there is no set protocol for exosome treatments, but this can be seen as a good thing: after all, it allows those physicians that conduct exosome therapies to make them fully customized to a patient’s particular pathology.
What can Exosomes Treat?
In the field of regenerative medicine today, with the discovery of extracellular microvesicles, especially exosomes, many researchers have been able to offer a more exciting alternative on this subject matter. Exosome arthritis therapy is believed to play a more substantial role in bone and cartilage remodeling. Below, we’ve outlined some of the things that exosomes show promise in treating:
Hair Loss: Exosomes can be used to regrow hair due to their growth factor content. When injected exosomes trigger healing and the natural regeneration of hair follicles.
Lyme Disease: Exosomes may be beneficial to patients who suffer from Lyme disease, which is a very complex disease that compromises the immune system. BEcause it results in an increase in inflammatory responses, incorporating exosomes into one’s treatment plan could help break the cycle of inflammatory response.
Arthritis: Arthritis is known by many as the inflammation of the joints as a result of an autoimmune deficiency. Although various types of treatment are available to alleviate symptoms, nothing has been confirmed to reverse the disease’s progression.
An Introduction to Umbilical Cord Blood
Umbilical cord blood is, like exosomes, one of the newer cellular therapies that have been made available to patients, and although the umbilical cord is something that many people are familiar with, its benefits are some that might not be necessarily known by the layman. Cord blood is that blood which is contained within the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn child. Once the child is born, this blood can be collected with extreme ease and frozen for later use.
Now, that alone might bring up quite a few questions, chief among them being what can be done with this blood. The reality is that umbilical cord blood is an extremely potent source of stem cells within the body, which means that it has a wide variety of applications for several unique, degenerative diseases. The type of stem cells that umbilical cord blood contains are known as haematopoietic stem cells, which means that they are stem cells that are found in blood. Harvesting stem cells from the umbilical cord is opposed to sources such as fat and bone marrow, which have for a long time been the most reliably harvested sources for regenerative medicine therapies.
For those unaware, stem cells are those cells that can become all of the other cells that are found within the human body– from heart cells, to liver cells, to even neurons and the several types of white blood cells that make up the immune system. Transplants of the haematopoietic stem cells, which are also known as HSCs, that are found in the umbilical cord’s blood have been used to treat a wide variety of blood diseases, including leukemia.
The Advantage of Cord Blood
Compared to the HSCs that are found from bone marrow donors, which are also technically derived from blood, transplants of HSCs from umbilical cord blood appear to lead to fewer immune system incompatibilities. The reason why is as yet unknown, but this discovered trend significantly reduces the risk of patients developing graft-versus-host disease.
Umbilical Cord Blood has been found to contain an extremely beneficial blend of cytokines, growth factors, and stem cells. Cytokines are small proteins that are important for the signals that are sent between cells, their method of communication. Growth factors are naturally occurring substances that are known to spur and increase the rate of cellular growth within the body. A unique blend of all three of these is only found within umbilical cord blood, and ensures a rich micro-environment within the body, which is important for fostering the regeneration of tissue and the proper growth of cells.
Cellular therapies like this one do much in augmenting the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Through the use of stem cells and the other derivatives mentioned above, the body’s natural regeneration cycle is augmented in a way that allows it to reduce some of the symptoms of degenerative diseases. As humans age, the amount of stem cells that are disposable within the body are greatly reduced in both numbers and efficiency– because of this, cellular therapies have emerged as a key element of regenerative medicine. They also contain immunomodulatory properties, which are very important for controlling pain and inflammation in the body, and increase blood flow and the growth of soft tissue. Cellular therapies are generally safe and effective outpatient procedures. They are minimally invasive and require no downtime.
Misinformation in the Field
A large challenge that is facing many new areas of medical research and treatments, including the field of regenerative medicine, is correcting misinformation. There are many companies that advertise services to patients that are not aware of the medicine behind the treatments, and suggest to parents that they should pay to freeze their child’s cord blood in a bank in case it’s needed later in life– studies show that it is highly unlikely this blood would ever have to be used. However, for those that are interested in paying for the extra layer of security, there is a chance that they may prove useful later on in life.
However, for those with a more altruistic mindset, cord blood can also be donated to public blood banks. This way, people can do their part in ensuring that there is an ample supply of cord blood therapies for those who actually do suffer from the diseases that would benefit from the treatment. The decision belongs to the patient, of course, but there is something to be said for keeping the stem cells, as they can be used for the treatment of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, leukemia, and many others.