Stem cell research is currently evaluating the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in trigeminal neuralgia. The condition is an uncommon neuropathy (nerve pain syndrome) that affects the trigeminal nerve (the fifth cranial nerve), which carries mainly sensation from the face to the brain. It affects around 45,000 in this country and approximately 1 million worldwide.
Trigeminal neuralgia presents as a range of unpleasant sensations, usually on one side of the face, but sometimes both. These sensations could be a feeling of pins and needles or as severe as burning, aching, and pain like “electrical shock.” Chewing, speaking, shaving, brushing teeth, or even wiping one’s face can often trigger the pain.
While analgesics are generally the first line of treatment, many of those moderately to severely affected sufferers do not respond well to painkillers—even opiates and neurological drugs. Previously, neurosurgery was one of the few options available in these cases. Now, new stem cell therapy methods are demonstrating real success in alleviating trigeminal neuralgia without invasive surgery.
Stem cell treatment has advanced considerably over the past few years. Non-embryonic (adult) mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can now be safely extracted from a patient’s own fat. Like embryonic stem cells, adult MSCs are capable of building many different kinds of organs and tissues. However, since they are obtained from the patient’s own reserve stem cells, there is no risk of any adverse reaction or rejection by the body’s immune system.
In treatment, the patient’s MSCs are injected at high concentrations at strategic points along the trigeminal nerve path. The super-dose injection of stem cells serves to enhance healing and reset the physiology to the sensation of pain. The process of healing works by the principle of bioavailability and the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of stem cells, aided by the scores of different growth factors and cytokines that are produced by them.
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