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 remain much higher until we reach the end of our lifespans. Regenerative Medicine has a promising future and its advancements brighten our future along with it.