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What Is Regenerative Medicine?

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Dec 18, 2017 5:38 PM

Regenerative medicine is defined as methods that strive to heal areas in the body that were previously irreparable. This practice encourages the body to repair its own tissue and organs that have degenerated due to disease, congenital defects, injury, or age with various implantation. The first procedure of this type was performed in 2008 by way of a tissue engineered trachea transplantation.

Many regenerative therapies utilize the use of stem cell therapy to treat conditions such as:

  • Hair loss
  • Arthritis
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Epicondylitis
  • Tendonitis

Athletes especially benefit from regenerative medicine; Dr. Leon Reyfman states that "stem cell therapy offers patients the chance of experiencing significant improvement using minimally invasive techniques and without the limited movement associated with current surgical options."

Regenerative medicine covers a wide range of methods:

Artificial Organs and Medical Devices

In this concentration of regenerative medicine, scientists create new organs from a patient's own cells by introducing a completely new organ. This practice can either assist a patient while they wait for a new organ, or it can replace the need for a transplantation. Medical devices in this practice are either fully artificial or composed of a combination of biologic and synthetic materials and are used in correlation with the engineered tissues, stem cells, and gene therapy that are employed during regenerative medicine practices.

Tissue Engineering

Regenerative medicine is an excellent option for heart disease; its concentration of replacing damaged heart valves. In this case, scientists work with the patient's cells to create a heart valve with the help of a mold formed from biomaterials.

Cellular Therapies

Cellular is used in cardiac therapy, urinary incontinence, cancer treatment, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy treatments. In the cases of cardiac, incontinence, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the patient's stem cells are implanted in the heart, bladder, and degenerated muscles to provide a stronger foundation for tissues and organs. Regenerative scientists theorize that stem cells may be the culprit behind creating cancerous cells; implantation of new stem cells strive to prevent its generation.

Gene Therapy

This procedure involves the insertion of functioning genes to enhance or rectify mutated or poorly performing genes.

Cellular Reprogramming

This procedure transforms a cell into another stage, such as from frog to a tadpole, to allow study of development and how a disease progresses.

Regenerative medicine can benefit individuals of all ages, from newborns to senior citizens. A list of its pros include:

  • Reduces or eliminates transplant rejection risk
  • Minimally invasive procedures
  • Reduces effects of aging
  • Encourages longevity

The cons of regenerative medicine include:

- Cost may be difficult or impossible to cover; many insurances do not cover it

- Therapies may not be as effective as standard procedures in some cases to the detriment of the patient

- Possible loss of function or rejection of implanted cells

- Possible correlation to cancer

There has been a question of ethics regarding regenerative medicine, mainly concerning the methods of obtaining stem cells from an embryo, who actually owns the stem cells, and if research should be used to develop an embryo with only stem cells. Some also worry that society will have less value on their lives and engage in risky or dangerous behavior with the knowledge that they can just "get fixed back up." Just as research on effective methods are rapidly taking place, licenses and regulations are also being put in order to provide the best results for society.

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