Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT): A powerful Addition to Stem Cell therapy for accelerated healing
Today we live in a world where consumer demand is rapidly giving rise to a whole host of innovative industries at a rate faster than ever before. This is largely due to the fact that information of all types can spread so quickly through the internet and social media. One of the best examples of this in medicine is the massive explosion of regenerative medicine practices that we are seeing emerge today in the U.S. and all over the world. Ten years ago, Regenerative Medicine was virtually an unknown specialty and today it has become practically a main stream alternative to drugs and surgery for injuries, chronic pain and countless other conditions. There is a massive rise in demand for therapies and strategies that accelerate the body’s natural ability to heal instead of having to always turn to these much more invasive and potentially dangerous methods out of standardized medicine. There is of course tremendous excitement around stem cells and other relatively new cutting treatments in this field like red light, acoustic sound wave, and PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) therapies. However, one of the oldest and most effective regenerative medical modalities called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is now possibly one of the most widespread therapies in this field thanks to this rapidly growing demand.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber or room. It is primarily used as an overall supportive therapy for recovery from a vast array of different injuries and illnesses such as:
• Traumatic Brain Injury 1, 2, 3
• PTSD 4
• Depression and Anxiety 5
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 6
• Autism 7, 8
• Stroke 9
• Multiple sclerosis 10
• Burn injuries 11
• Systemic and skin infections 12
• Sudden vision loss 13
How It Works
Although it doesn’t sound like there would be anything that unique about breathing oxygen in a chamber, the magic of this therapy really comes from combining the high levels of oxygen with pressure. It is well known in medicine that healing cannot take place in any area of the body without adequate oxygen levels in the tissues. Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells in the blood stream. Most chronic injuries involve damage to blood vessels (which carry these cells) in the affected tissues that are normally responsible for delivering oxygen to that area. With HBOT, the pressure that’s applied in the chamber allows oxygen to be dissolved into all of the body's fluids, the spinal fluid, the plasma, the bone and the lymph where it can be carried to areas where circulation has been compromised or blocked due to blood vessel damage. So the extra oxygen can reach all of the damaged tissues that have poor circulation and the body can support its own healing process. Most illnesses and injuries occur, and often linger, at the cellular level in these tissues. In the case of circulatory problems, non-healing wounds, and strokes, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and the body's natural healing ability is unable to function properly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of immune cells to kill pathogens, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the damaged areas. But most of the regenerative effects of this treatment actually don’t come from increased oxygen availability alone, but from the effects that both increased pressure and oxygen has on gene expression in the body.
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Effects the Genome
In 2008, a study using advanced mass DNA analysis techniques lead by Dr. Cassandra Godman and colleagues found that a single hyperbaric treatment to the cells that line all of our blood vessels turned on or turned off over 8,000 genes in the 24 hours following the single treatment.14, 15 When the cells were given another treatment after 24 hours, even more genes were activated, and the cells began to roll up and form new healthy blood vessels. The study also found that the genes that were turned on are those genes which code for growth and repair hormones (like Human Growth Hormone) and the anti-inflammatory genes. The genes that were turned off were the pro-inflammatory genes and those that code for programed cell death.
After that study was conducted, additional research found that different pressures and oxygen levels turn on different sets of genes. Oxygen was responsible mostly for turning on the genes and pressure for turning off the genes.
Essentially, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the most safe and effective natural gene therapy known to man. Each time a patient undergoes a hyperbaric treatment, the physician is essentially playing a symphony with their genes using different pressures and different amounts of oxygen to accelerate healing in various parts of the body. So when oxygen is under pressure, it acts like a natural drug that activates the DNA and other components of each cell, bringing about permanent changes in the cell and surrounding tissue.
Hyperbaric Oxygen May Enhance the Effects of Stem Cell Therapy
A variety of studies have also shown that HBOT stimulates an endogenous increase in nitric oxide (NO) that seems to activate stem cells in the body and mobilize them to damaged tissues.16 It’s really the combination of this stem cell mobilizing effect with the massive growth hormone rise that makes HBOT so effective for accelerating the healing process. Growth Hormone acts like miracle grow for stem cells, so it’s not surprising at all that Regenerative Medicine doctors all over the U.S. are starting to combine Hyperbaric Oxygen with Stem Cell Therapy for an enhanced effect. So many of these doctors swear by the combination of these two therapies for many conditions, especially brain injuries.
In the treatment of acute conditions, HBOT also affects the patient’s DNA. Evidence points to its ability to reverse damage to the DNA or overcome a type of freeze that is put on the DNA from various insults. This effect can start to occur in one to two treatments in these cases. However with more chronic injuries, many more treatments are needed to maximize results after stem cells are administered. These treatments are generally administered post stem cell injection, so that they can further enhance the regenerative effect that occurs in the months following stem cell therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen and Brain injuries
World renowned expert Dr. Paul Harch has been at the forefront of Hyperbaric medicine and research for more than 3 decades. In his bestselling book “The Oxygen Revolution”, he stated that over years of experimentation with HBOT, he and his team have discovered that the therapy’s “secret of success” is in its cumulative effect. Meaning that after 25-35 treatments, the body’s tissues have been permanently changed.
These changes have been demonstrated by Harch’s team in many studies on brain injured patients using a type functional brain imaging called SPECT which monitors changes in brain metabolism and blood flow.17 The functional changes seen in the brains of patients with traumatic brain injuries, stroke, Autism, and Cerebral palsy after a round of hyperbaric treatments are profound. Some of these severely injured patients saw as much as a 80-90 percent improvement in their symptoms after a round of 40 1 hour treatments. This is largely due to the stem cell mobilization and the significant level of angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) that occurs during the treatments. Brain injuries almost always involve the damage of many blood vessels in the brain, which leads to a suffocating effect in the neural tissue that leaves the person impaired and unable to heal. So Hyperbarics helps to restore that blood flow and save the tissue, which can restore brain function.
This is actually not so hard to believe when you understand the treatment in terms of using oxygen and pressure as a natural drug that affects gene expression and activates the body’s stem cells. This can help a person to understand how the therapy can have such profound effect on brain injuries and so many other conditions.
Where to find Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
HBOT is widely available today in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Almost every major hospital has a hyperbaric unit with medical grade chambers. However, getting this therapy in a hospital is expensive and frankly unnecessary in most cases. Finding a stand-alone clinic in your area will run you about one-tenth of the cost, usually about $150-$250 per one-hour treatment. Less powerful soft blow up chambers are also available to purchase for home use. Oxy Health, the most reputable company in this industry has many different chambers of different sizes that run anywhere from 10- 40 thousand dollars. These chambers are not well studied, but patients still report good results sometimes comparable to what we see in the more state of the are medical grade chambers.
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