Stem Cells, Regenerative Medicine, and Tissue Engineering

Posted: June 1, 2015 at 7:45 am

Stem Cells, Regenerative Medicine, and Tissue Engineering


Treatments classed as regenerative medicine help our natural healing processes work more rapidly and more effectively. These technologies can enable regeneration in missing or damaged tissue that would not ordinarily regrow, producing at least partial regeneration, and in some promising animal studies complete regeneration.

Strategies presently either under development, in clinical trials, or available via medical tourism include stem cell transplants, manipulation of a patient's own stem cells, and the use of implanted scaffold materials that emit biochemical signals to spur stem cells into action. In the field of tissue engineering, researchers have generated sections of tissue outside the body for transplant, using the patient's own cells to minimize the possibility of transplant rejection. Regenerative therapies have been demonstrated in the laboratory to at least partially heal broken bones, bad burns, blindness, deafness, heart damage, worn joints, nerve damage, the lost brain cells of Parkinson's disease, and a range of other conditions. Less complex organs such as the bladder and the trachea have been constructed from a patient's cells and scaffolds and successfully transplanted.

Work continues to bring these advances to patients. Many forms of treatment are offered outside the US and have been for a decade or more in some cases, while within the US just a few of the simple forms of stem cell transplant have managed to pass the gauntlet of the FDA in the past few years.

What Are Stem Cells?

Some of the most impressive demonstrations of regenerative medicine since the turn of the century have used varying forms of stem cells - embryonic, adult, and most recently induced pluripotent stem cells - to trigger healing in the patient. Most of the earlier successful clinical applications were aimed at the alleviation of life-threatening heart conditions. However, varying degrees of effectiveness have also been demonstrated for the repair of damage in other organs, such as joints, the liver, kidneys, nerves, and so forth.

Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can continue dividing forever and can change into other types of cells. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer. They are found in embryos at very early stages of development (embyonic stem cells) and in some adult organs, such as bone marrow and brain (adult stem cells). You can find more information on stem cells at the following sites:

Embryonic and adult stem cells appear to have different effects, limitations and abilities. The current scientific consensus is that adult stem cells are limited in their utility, and that both embryonic and adult stem cell research will be required to develop cures for severe and degenerative diseases. Researchers are also making rapid progress in reprogramming stem cells and creating embryonic-like stem cells from ordinary cells.

Progress in Stem Cell Research

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Stem Cells, Regenerative Medicine, and Tissue Engineering

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