The goal of regenerative medicine is to restore function through therapy at such levels as the gene, cell, tissue or organ. For many disorders, however, regenerative medicine approaches in isolation may not be optimally effective. Rehabilitation is a promising adjunct therapy given the beneficial impact that physical activity and other training modalities can offer. Accordingly, “regenerative rehabilitation” is an emerging concentration of study with the specific goal of improving positive functional outcomes by enhancing tissue restoration following injury. The present article focuses on one emerging example of regenerative rehabilitation-namely, the integration of clinically-based protocols with stem cell technologies following central nervous system (CNS) injury. For the purposes of this review, we summarize the state of stem cell technologies for the CNS and provide a rationale for a synergistic benefit of carefully orchestrated rehabilitation protocols in conjunction with cellular therapies. We close by overviewing practical steps to increase the involvement of physical therapy in regenerative rehabilitation research.
© 2016 American Physical Therapy Association.