The next frontier in health care: regenerative medicine
East West Health in Park City is using stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapy to heal aging joints
The human body has powerful capabilities to heal itself — that’s why medicine is catching up by using this natural healing process in a more concentrated form.
Stem cells — the cells from which all other specialized cells in the body are generated — send out signals in the body that essentially tell other cells not to die. Dr. John Lawrence, a medical doctor, and Regan Archibald, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, opened the Park City location of East West Health 5 years ago. This unique practice focuses on holistic care, combining eastern and western medicine practices.
Part of that practice includes regenerative medicine — both with stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy — which Dr. Lawrence said is the future of medicine. He’s been practicing regenerative medicine to heal the heavily used joints and muscles of Park City’s active residents.
Some of the results in patients who would have otherwise required surgery and/or medication have been remarkable.
“We have patients who come to us for treatment who haven’t been able to ski or mountain bike in years due to pain, and here they are a year later back skiing every day,” he said. “The potential has been very exciting.”
Effects of aging on our joints
Aging affects every person differently, but one effect that’s practically universal is that muscle mass tends to decrease, causing the soft tissues that support our joints to become stiffer and cartilage to decrease, making our joints less fluid, Dr. Lawrence said.
“This results in a joint that’s not as supportive as when we were younger,” he said. “Usually by the time you’re feeling pain, you’ve lost cartilage.”
Stem cell therapy has helped repair cartilage and reduce inflammatory cells, which leads to a reduction in pain.
Dr. Lawrence had one patient who was told she needed knee replacement surgery in both knees. Her pain level was a 10 out of 10. After her stem cell injection, her pain level went to zero.
“Now, almost five years out, she’s never needed a repeat injection and didn’t have surgery,” he said.
While Dr. Lawrence is careful not to overpromise results like this because every patient responds differently, he said he sees a lot of patients who do experience extraordinary results.
Regenerative medicine – how it works
The body has more than 220 different types of cells. Stem cells can be transplanted to other parts of the body to regenerate what has been damaged, Dr. Lawrence said.
Stem cell procedures are simple injections into joints or soft tissue, done in East West Health’s office setting. Dr. Lawrence said it’s very similar to a steroid injection.
“We have also used it as an IV to treat certain conditions,” he said.
There is no recovery time after the procedure. Dr. Lawrence said if he injects a joint, patients simply walk out of the clinic. He does ask that patients do no heavy impact for the first couple of weeks, but physical therapy and strengthening begins immediately.
The other form of regenerative medicine is platelet rich plasma therapy, used for facelifts, hair restoration, sexual enhancement, and orthopedic injections.
East West Health includes a lot of follow-up care after any procedure, which the clinic believes is essential for holistic care.
Whole person care
The idea to combine eastern and western medicine was rooted in the belief that health care should be about the whole person. East West provides a comprehensive approach to care which is designed to promote overall health through the right testing, appropriate treatments, and teaching.
“We need to address all the aspects of health,” he said. “People are coming to us with chronic conditions and we’re able to see that reversed with natural healing. It’s all about empowering the patient and helping them optimize their health and achieve their goals.”
East West focuses on wellness programs that optimize health and treat patients naturally without medications. This is done through diet, lifestyle, acupuncture — which stimulates the body’s own stem cells — mindset and other practices. Regenerative medicine is an exciting aspect of this care.
“Prescriptions and surgery certainly have their place in health care, but I think people in general are recognizing the need to be stewards of their own health,” Dr. Lawrence said. “If we can look at the whole person and picture, we can see a long-term better result. Hopefully this is where we’ll see healthcare going — with different health care providers coming together.”
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Mother Nature has not delivered any early gifts to Park City skiers and snowboarders. As December nears, the area is suffering through an especially dry spell of weather.