What Is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine seeks to replace tissue or organs that have been damaged by disease, injury, or congenital problems, vs. the existing clinical strategy that focuses mainly on treating the symptoms. The tools used to accomplish these results are tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and medical devices and artificial organs.
Combos of these methods can enhance our natural recovery process in the areas it is needed most, or take over the function of a totally damaged organ. Regenerative medicine is a fairly new field that brings together experts in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, genetics, medicine, robotics, and other fields to find answers to some of the most challenging medical conditions experienced by humans.
When injured or invaded by illness, our bodies have the innate response to heal and protect. Suppose it was possible to capture the power of the body to heal and then increase it in a clinically relevant way? Suppose we could help the body recover better?
The promising field of regenerative medicine is working to repair structure and function of damaged tissues and organs. It is also trying to develop treatments for organs that become permanently damaged. The goal of this technique is to discover a way to cure previously untreatable injuries and diseases.
The concentrations in the field of regenerative medicine are:
Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials
Tissue engineering is a method where biologically compatible scaffolds are inserted in the body at the place where new tissue is to be created. If the scaffold is in the geometric shape of the tissue that needs to be made, and the scaffold attracts cells the result is new tissue in the shape intended. If the newly forming tissue undergoes exercise as it develops, the result can be a new functional engineered problem.
Millions of individuals have been treated with some type of tissue engineered devices, yet the field is in its infancy. The main success stories have been with soft tissue regeneration.
Many millions of adult stem cells are located in every human. Our body uses stem cells as one way of repairing itself. Studies have shown that if adult stem cells are gathered and then injected at the site of diseased or damaged tissue, restoration of the tissue is possible under the right conditions. These cells can be collected from blood, fat, bone marrow, dental pulp, skeletal muscle and other sources. Cord blood offers yet another source of adult stem cells. Researchers and clinicians are developing and honing their ability to prepare gathered stem cells to be injected into patients to restore unhealthy or damaged tissue.
Medical Devices and Artificial Organs
In cases where an organ fails, the primary clinical strategy is to transplant a replacement organ from a donor. The principal challenges are the availability of donor organs, and also the requirement that the donor take immunosuppression medications-- which have side effects. In addition, there are many circumstances where the time to get a suitable donor organ requires an interim approach to sustain or supplement the function of the failing organ until a transplantable organ is found. Using circulatory support as an example, there are technologies in various stages of maturity, originally using ventricular assist devices (VADs) as a bridge to a heart transplant, and now there are VADs that are used for long-term circulatory support (destination therapy).
Regenerative medicine goes past disease management to search for and discover therapies that support the body in repairing, regenerating and restoring itself to a state of well-being.
From prenatal surgical procedures to treatments for long-lasting degenerative and disabling disorders, regenerative medicine therapies trigger the body to enact a self-healing response. These advancements in patient treatment across a vast range of medical specialties indicate new options to expand and preserve optimal health and quality of life.