Hyperbaric oxygen treatments boost tissue repair and recovery from injury tissue by increasing the number of circulating stem cells, according to a new study .
The report, to be published in the April 2006 issue of American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulation Physiology, says a typical course of hyperbaric oxygen treatments increases the number of stem cells circulating in a patient`s body by eight-fold.
Stem cells, also called progenitor cells, are crucial to injury repair.
Stem cells can be mobilized by several stimuli, including drugs. However, the hyperbaric oxygen treatments carry a significantly lower risk of side effects.
"This is the safest way clinically to increase stem cell circulation, far safer than any of the pharmaceutical options," says Dr. Stephen Thom, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "This study provides information on the fundamental mechanisms for hyperbaric oxygen and offers a new theoretical therapeutic option for mobilizing stem cells."
"We reproduced the observations from humans in animals in order to identify the mechanism for the hyperbaric oxygen effect," adds Dr. Thom. "We found that hyperbaric oxygen mobilizes stem/progenitor cells as it increases synthesis of nitric oxide in the bone marrow. This synthesis is believed to trigger enzymes that mediate stem/progenitor cell release."
Further study of hyperbaric oxygen's impact on stem cells could lead to new treatments for combating injury and disease.