Regenerative Medicine focuses on developing and applying new treatments to repair tissue and organs damaged by disease, injury or normal aging. The goal of regenerative medicine is to restore function in these damaged tissues and organs by mimicking the body’s own natural processes for self-healing.
The human body has amazing regenerative capacities—a cut heals, broken bones repair themselves, and the immune system fights off infections. However, the body’s natural ability to regenerate is often impeded by age, disease and genetics. Regenerative Medicine research seeks to overcome this impedement. In the long term, regenerative medicines could cure many diseases that are currently only manageable with conventional drugs.
A key objective of the field is to use stem cells to replace or augment damaged tissue. Stem cells are precursor cells that can develop into specialized cell types such as skin, bone or blood. In Regenerative Medicine, doctors collect stem cells from the patient and place them in a medical machine that can differentiate them into the specific cell type needed to repair or replace damaged tissue. The doctor then injects the stem cells into the patient at the site of the damage.
In addition, scientists are working to develop biomaterials—materials that can guide or support the growth of new tissue. The development of new biomaterials with regenerative properties can help to speed up the formation of healthy tissue and may enable the replacement of currently used metal and plastic surgical implants.
Scientists are also exploring ways to rejuvenate existing cells. The Dolly experiment showed that adult cells can be reprogrammed to become whatever type of cell the body needs—and it’s possible that regenerative medicine therapies could exploit this technology in the future.
Regenerative Medicine is a multidisciplinary field, and for the therapies to be successful they need to draw on the expertise of a range of disciplines and stakeholders. This is because the therapies need to address fundamental biological and technical challenges. For example, the generation of new therapeutic products is complex, involving the manufacture and delivery of a large number of components.
The regenerative medicine and advanced therapies field is in its early stages of development, but if it can deliver on the promises of ameliorating or curing previously untreatable diseases and conditions, then the public health impact will be enormous. A high-quality, well-trained workforce is essential to achieving this promise.
In order to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine and advanced therapy products, it’s important that researchers collaborate with each other to share their knowledge and resources. This helps to reduce the time and expense associated with developing these new technologies, which ultimately translates into more patients receiving potentially life-changing therapies.