Though great progress has been made in medicine, current evidence-based and palliative treatments are increasingly unable to keep pace with patients’ 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 patients’ symptoms using medications or devices.
Regenerative medicine is a game-changing area with the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people with conditions that today are beyond repair.
Regenerative medicine itself isn’t new — the first bone marrow and solid-organ transplants were done decades ago. But 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 holds the promise of definitive, affordable healthcare solutions that heal the body from within.
Stem cells have the ability to develop — through a process called differentiation — into many different types of cells, such as skin cells, brain cells, lung cells and so on. Stem cells are a key component of regenerative medicine, as they open the door to new clinical applications.
Regenerative medicine teams are studying 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.
Many of the regenerative therapies under development in the Center for Regenerative Medicine begin with the particular patient’s own cells. For example, a patient’s own skin cells may be collected, reprogrammed in a laboratory to give them certain characteristics, and delivered back to the patient to treat his or her disease.
Stem cells and their use in regenerative medicine have been in the media a lot lately. But what exactly does it mean? Physicians and researchers in the Center for 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.