Have you heard about Alzheimer’s disease? In this a patient undergoes a rapid degeneration of cells, specifically brain cells because of which the patient loses memory. The root cause for Alzheimer’s disease is degeneration of cells and cell connections. If we want to cure this kind of disease we need some cells which can rapidly regenerate and restore the memories. Stem cells are the type of cell which can regenerate rapidly within the body and form various types of tissues. Stem cells are the body’s raw materials viz. cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. There are many modern techniques developed for curing such types of diseases, but there is a cure in Ayurveda too.
The base of Ayurvedic therapies is to restore the body’s balance and nourishment. This balance is brought in by stabilizing and nourishing Dhatus (tissues). Rasayana, a concept of Ayurveda, focuses on regeneration and renewal of cells. All the drugs and therapies included in Rasayana stimulate and nourish Dhatus. It has the immense potential for development of regenerative medicine.
In Ayurveda, physiology is explained by the continuous process of generation and degeneration of tissues. This homeostasis is regulated by Doshas, which regulate metabolism as well. Vata Dosha regulates the wear and tear of tissues (catabolic activities), Pitta Dosha regulates assimilation of nutrients into the tissues, Kapha Dosha regulates the synthesis of new tissues.
Stem cell research is a major breakthrough in medicine to cure some complicated diseases. These cells are self renewing cells that give rise to multiple types of tissues within the body. For example, blood cells can become neurons, liver cells can be made to produce insulin, hematopoietic stem cells could develop into muscles of the heart, etc. This property of stem cells in getting converted into another tissue type is known as plasticity.
One amongst the eight branches of Ayurveda is Rasayana which is entirely of rejuvenation and immunomodulation. This theory encompasses health management, delaying aging, and treatment of diseases. The enhancement of Rasa (essence) is the prominent quality of all the Rasayanas, and thus, helps in promoting health. Rasayanas have a tendency to improve the nutritional status of the body by the mechanisms of Rasa (nutrient effect), Srotas (microcirculation) and Agni (metabolism). Rasayana drugs improve metabolic process at tissue level and promote elimination of wastes. Elimination of wastes improves Dhatus and their functions, leading to strengthening effects on the body.
Stem cells have the capability to replicate themselves and differentiate into various types of cells like adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteocytes, neurons, astrocytes, etc. Substances like retinoic acid, insuline, selenium, vitamine C etc, act as differentiating agents.
Rasayanas as known for their tissue specificity were tested in stem cells to identify their differentiation inducing activity. Ayurveda has described various Rasayana plant drugs. In scientific studies, these Rasayanas have been used to identify superficial correlations. Rasayana therapy can help to identify candidates and modes of study. For instance, Rasayana drugs act through nutrition dynamics i.e. to improve your quality of plasma, normalisation of metabolism and digestion process and to improve tissue health at molecular level. Rasayana drugs are tissue specific, for example, Medhya Rasayanas are used for brain tissue; which help to retard brain ageing and help in regeneration of neural cells. Similarly, Hirdaya Rasayana are used for heart, Chakshushya Rasayana are used for eyes, etc.
A good number of Rasayana drugs have shown immunomodulatory and disease specific immunomodulatory activities. These drugs play a role in immunity as well as they exhibit anti-stress and antioxidant activities which helps for a good quality of life. Rasayana can develop the microenvironment in which the cells can regenerate.
Thus, Rasayana is one of the unique tools in Ayurvedic medicines that helps to delay aging or regenerate cells. The concept of Dhatus, Ayurvedic drugs and Stem cell therapy are important aspects to be considered in medical research.