Regenerative medicine represents a significant step forward in medical research. Not only does it have the potential to one-day end donor registries and heal millions of people previously thought un-treatable, but regenerative medicine can do some incredible things already.
The main focus of regenerative medicine is on saving and improving lives. However, how it does that is the cause of much excitement and discussion across the world.
While still in its infancy, regenerative medicine uses special techniques to try and stimulate the body’s natural healing and regeneration processes. That allows your body to work for you, potentially accelerating your recovery from injuries and helping you treat certain conditions or diseases.
To understand how it all works, we should discuss regeneration.
First, what is regeneration?
In traditional biology, regeneration is the process some creatures use to restore lost or amputated limbs and other body parts.
One of the most classic examples is the salamander, but planarians (a type of flatworm) and some other creatures also have this capability. If a salamander loses a leg for almost any reason, it can regenerate a perfectly functional leg. Planarians can regrow their entire body from either side if cut in half.
Today, if a human loses a limb, it will not grow back; if we lose an organ, it’s gone. Imagine if we could trigger controlled regeneration and regrow a healthy organ to replace a damaged or diseased one. That day may not be as far off as you think.
USC’s scientists are currently working on creating functional, miniature human livers and repairing heart damage, and that’s just a start. Their research could change how organs are replaced.
Many other universities, hospitals, clinics, and scientists worldwide are also researching scientific advances that we never thought possible before regenerative medicine.
Why is regeneration important to regenerative medicine?
As the name implies, regenerative medicine relies on regeneration to heal patients. It could be from an infusion of regenerative cells or any other method that stimulates the body’s natural regenerative processes.
Cellular therapy is a typical example of regenerative medicine that can utilize a simple procedure that only takes a few hours. However, those few hours could result in months or even years of reduced pain and inflammation and increased mobility. That is what makes regenerative medicine and cell therapy so unique.
However, there are other applications of regeneration in regenerative medicine. Recently, doctors have even been able to regenerate entire organs with cellular therapy. The most exciting thing is that this science is only in its infancy, and we can expect even more incredible things to come.
In the future, regenerative medicine may make donor lists unnecessary and provide living, functional transplants made from just a few cells.
How does regenerative medicine work?
Since regenerative medicine relies on regeneration, it requires an attempt to stimulate natural regenerative processes. It can be accomplished in several ways, each with its uses, and can affect patients differently.
A great deal of research has gone into learning more about regenerative medicine. As hospitals have adopted it to treat advanced issues, several types of regenerative medicine have emerged as the current leaders in the field.
Let’s go over two great examples: cell therapy and PRP.
Example 1: Cell Therapy
In cell therapy, doctors inject regenerative-capable cells into a patient’s body, and afterward, these cells become other kinds of cells in the body. It is even possible to use certain types of cells to narrow down the kinds of cells they could become.
For instance, if a patient with an injured knee walks into a stem cell clinic, they may sit down for a quick procedure. During the procedure, they may have a tiny amount of fatty tissue removed from their abdomen. “adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells” are removed from this fatty tissue.
Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells can infinitely self-replicate, which is one cool thing about them. Being considered multipotent is another exciting aspect, as it means they can transform into multiple types of cells. So, even though they are from your skin, they can become other helpful cells inside your body.
Since the body’s natural way of regenerating involves replacing old cells with new cells, these stem cells can stimulate a regenerative response inside the body by becoming new cells.
Example 2: PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) involves collecting platelets from a patient’s blood in a similar process. Platelets naturally travel to your injuries and tell the brain to send suitable stem cells.
For a PRP procedure, a patient draws blood, and then the platelets are separated. These platelets are injected into you to stimulate your body’s natural healing response.
Pairing it up with cell therapy could promote healing and assist in recovering from injuries and attempting an even more profound result.
The future of regenerative medicine
By stimulating the body’s natural regenerative processes, regenerative medicine attempts to replace cells affected by age, injury, disease, and congenital disabilities. That could allow for treating orthopedic issues, diseases, and many other conditions.
Because of this, regenerative medicine has already become the next frontier in medical science. Researchers and scientists across the globe are working together with doctors to discover new clinical applications for this medical breakthrough.