What Is Regenerative Medicine?

When Adrienne Shapiro’s daughter Marissa was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, the doctors said that she would not live till her first birthday. However, when Marissa managed to live past that benchmark, it did not mean the end of Adrienne’s worries. In fact, it was the beginning of many painful years of blood transfusions and immunological disorders. When an improperly matched blood transfusion caused a severe reaction leading to the removal of Marissa’s gall bladder and temporary kidney failure, she was unable to receive further blood transfusions.

However, luckily for Marissa a project sponsored by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), headed by Don Kohn, MD at UCLA, was starting a clinical trial. The objective of the project was ‘to remove bone marrow from the patient and fix the genetic defect in the blood-forming stem cells. Then those cells can be reintroduced into the patient to create a new, healthy blood system.’The success of this clinical trial has given hope to Adrienne that with the help regenerative medicine her daughter will be able to lead a healthy and pain-free life.

The Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison describes ‘Regenerative Medicine’ as ‘a new scientific and medical discipline focused on harnessing the power of stem cells and the body’s own regenerative capabilities to restore function to damaged cells, tissues and organs.’

Stem cells that are found in the umbilical cord blood of new born children have the ability to renew and regenerate themselves. A stem cell, through the process of mitosis, can divide itself to either become a specialized cell like a brain cell or muscle cell, or remain a stem cell. They are also able to repair internal damage caused by any type of disease, disorder or trauma. Stem cell transplantation, stem cell grafting and regenerative medicine are some of the ways in which these cells are used to cure disorders and illnesses.

Regenerative medicine includes a wide range of scientific disciplines, such as biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology and immunology. Scientists from these fields have been conducting research and studies in this domain and have identified three methods of using regenerative medicine. They are cellular therapies, tissue engineering and medical devices and artificial organs.

Cellular Therapies – In this method, cellular materials, in most cases adult stem cells, are extracted and stored and then injected into the site of injury, tissue damage or disease. These cells, thereafter, repair the damaged cells or regenerate new cells to replace the damaged ones.

Tissue Engineering – This method is related to the field of biomaterials development and utilizes a combination of functioning tissues, cells and scaffolds to engineer a fully functioning organ which is then implanted into the body of the receiver in place of a damaged organ or tissue.

Medical Devices and Artificial Organs – When a body organ fails, the most common method of treatment is to replace it with a donor organ. Donor organs are not easily available and can pose as a hindrance …

Regenerative Medicine, A Game Changer

One of the new up and coming fields that you should know about is regenerative medicine. It's growing quickly and will likely affect the business you do in the near future, if it hasn't already.

The reason regenerative could be a game changer, if it lives up to its potential, is that instead of treating diseases, these companies are working on being able to replace, re-engineer or regenerate human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function by targeting the root cause of disease. That means no more long term medicinal regimes or treatments to stave off diseases, a huge industry shift.

Regenerative medicine is at the nexus between several other existing areas in the medical world. Biology, chemistry, engineering and physical sciences all play a role in the emerging industry, so its a large and diverse playing field for researchers and its growing all of the time.

The latest indicator of future growth came in a study from MarketResearchReports, which recently released "Global Regenerative Medicine Market (Technology, Applications, Geography) – Industry Analysis, Trends, Opportunities and Forecast, 2013-2020." In it, the market analysis firm found the global regenerative medicine market will be worth some $ 67.6 billion by 2020 – a big increase from the $ 16.4 billion valuation by the group in 2013. Between 2014 and 2020, the report expects the regenerative medicine market to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 23.2 percent.

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine estimates there are currently more than, "700 companies with a regenerative medicine focus ranging from divisions of multinational corporations to smaller organizations focused solely on the sector."

According to the Alliance this is the breakdown of subsections within the industry:

Cell-Based Therapies

Living cells, a pillar of the field, are incorporated into regenerative medicines to achieve a variety of positive effects including replacing damaged or diseased cells and / or tissue, stimulating an endogenous response that promotes the body's own healing such as an immune response or regeneration in diseased tissue and delivering genetic or molecular therapies to targets

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy addresses defective or mutated genes needing either correction or improved regulation through the insertion of properly functioning genes into a patient's cells.

Biologics and Small Molecules

Biologics and small molecules can be defined as the use of chemicals and cellular components that are known to induce dormant, or edogenous cells to regain regenerative properties.

Tissue Engineering: Synthetic Materials, Biomaterials and Scaffolds

Synthetic and bio-based materials, cornerstones of the regenerative medicine field, are generally implanted in the body for reconstructive purposes, such as in joint replacement, bone repair, as artificial ligaments and tendons, dental implants, heart valves and wound repair. They work in partnership with native cells to support reconstruction and healing.

Stem Cells for Drug Discovery, Toxicity Testing and Disease Modeling

Companies are increasingly learning to leverage the use of stem cells and / or living tissue constructs to create in-vitro models to study human mechanisms of disease and the effects of drugs on …

Regenerative Medicine

Can there be a time when the advancement of medicine reaches a point in which we no longer need to transplant organs into the body to replace failing ones? When we no longer need to take insulin because our body does not produce enough? When paralysis due to nerve damage becomes repairable and reversible? These are the types of things that Regenerative Medicine can do for us.

Regenerative Medicine is a branch of medicine which focuses on the body’s own regenerative capabilities as a treatment for what ails us. This kind of medicine, when properly implemented, would allow us to restore the structure and proper function of damaged organs and tissues. It would even allow us to cure certain diseases that some of us are born with. Allowing many debilitated people to lead healthier lives, few of which had the chance just decades earlier.

This branch of medicine is made up of a few different concentrations:

Cellular Therapies: These are therapies using the cells of the body to regrow parts of the body like damaged nerve or cardiac tissue. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Heart Disease is caused by the irreversible death of heart cells during and after a heart attack due to a clotted cardiac artery. These dead heart cells could be replaced using stem cell treatments to create new cardiac cells.

Artificial Organs: This technique does not necessarily regenerate an organ, it does regenerate the function of that organ by replacing it with a new organ to do the work of the previously impaired organ. This is one of the few regenerative therapies that has already been implemented with great success in many patients. Many people live with artificial hearts and lungs but most are still waiting for a transplant so this technology is an interim for the true cure: tissue engineering.

Tissue Engineering: This technique involves restoring impaired organs of the body or replacing them entirely with lab-grown organs. Once this technique is perfected, it will put an end to organ transplants as we know it. No one will have to wait years on a list for an organ that, once implemented, might even be rejected by the body. Tissue Engineering would allow these organs and tissues to be grown using the patient’s own cells. Giving us an endless supply of something that used to have a finite lifespan. Our lifespans as individuals would surely increase with this type of breakthrough.

All of these techniques are wrapped up into something called Clinical Translation. Clinical translation is the implementation of these techniques in actual human trials so that they can be used in mainstream medicine. As time passes, these therapies will be tested and used on more patients, perfecting the various kinds of regenerative treatments and even developing entirely new treatments.

This type of medicine is the key to repairing our bodies as we age. So even though we may not be able to live forever, the quality of our existence will …