Regenerative medicine is a branch of research in tissue engineering and molecular biology which deals with the “process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function”.
Though great progress has been made in medicine, current evidence-based and palliative treatments are increasingly unable to keep pace with patient’s needs, especially given our aging population. There are few effective ways to treat the root causes of many diseases, injuries and congenital conditions. In many cases, clinicians can only manage patient’s symptoms using medications or devices.
Regenerative medicine is a game changing area of medicine with the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions that today are beyond repair.
Advances in developmental and cell biology, immunology, and other fields have unlocked new opportunities to refine existing regenerative therapies and develop novel ones. Regenerative medicine also includes the possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory, and safety implanting when the body cannot heal itself.
The widespread use of the term regenerative medicine is attributed to William A. Haseltane, founder of Human Genome Services. He described regenerative medicine as “an approach to therapy that… employs human genes, proteins and cells to regrow, restore or provide mechanical replacements for tissues that had been injured by trauma, damage by disease or worn by time” and “offers the prospect of curing diseases that cannot be treated effectively today, including those related to aging”.
Dr. Stephan Baduilak, a research professor in the Department of Surgery and Director of Tissue Engineering at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University’s Pittsburgh developed a process of decellularizing tissue and then drying it to become a powder. This extracellular matrix powder was used to regrow a finger of an individual who had severed ½ inch of his finger after getting caught it in a propeller of a model plane. As of 2011, this new technology is being employed by the military on US war veterans in Texas, as well as for some civilian patients.
Generative Medicine Timeline
- June 2008 at the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, professor Apollo Macarena and his team at the University of Barcelona performed the first tissue generated trachea (windpipe) transplantation. Adult stem cells were extracted from the patient’s bone marrow, grown into a large population, and matured into cartilage cells, originally devised for treating osteoarthritis. The team then seeded the newly grown cartilage cells as well as epithelial cells into a donated tracheal segment, and transplanted it into the individual. After one month, biopsy indicated the graft had grown back successfully.
- 2009, the SENS Foundation was launched, with its stated aim as “the application of regenerative medicine – defined to include the repair of living cells and extracellular material in situ – to the diseases and disabilities of aging”.
- 09/12/14 surgeons at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital and Colby Japan, transplanted 1.3×3.0 mm sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells, which were differentiated from progenitor stem cells, into an eye of an elderly woman who suffers from age-related macular degeneration.
- January 2016, a team of scientist at Bristol University published a paper revealing a way to create any human cell type from another cell type directly. The researchers proposed the use of pluripotent stem cells to treat many different medical conditions and diseases. Pluripotent stem cells are cells that have not yet “decided” what to become. The researchers developed a computational algorithm called MOGRIFY, to predict the cellular factors for cell conversions.
Regenerative medicine teams continue to study a variety of stem cells including adult and embryonic stem cells. Also being studied are various types of progenitor cells, such as those found in umbilical cord blood, and bioengineered cells called induced pluripotent stem cells. Each type has unique qualities, with some being more versatile than others.
Stem cells and their use in regenerative medicine have been in the media lately. Physicians and researchers in the field of regenerative medicine say it has to do with developing completely new ways to treat and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and degenerative nerve, bone, and joint conditions.
We at the Stem Cell Institute of Los Angeles strive to deliver specific types of stem cells or cell products to diseased tissues or organs where they will ultimately restore tissue and organ function.
This can be accomplished through cell-based therapies or by using sell products such as growth factors. Regenerative medicine holds the promise of definitive, affordable healthcare solutions that heal the body from within.