Regenerative Medicine is the field of medical research that seeks to repair or replace human cells, tissues and organs to restore normal function or to heal a diseased state. The regenerative medicine field is a major frontier for science, and holds the promise of curing diseases that are currently treated only with drugs or surgical interventions.
Unlike drugs that act to control or mitigate symptoms, Regenerative Medicine therapies stimulate the body’s innate healing mechanisms to restore organs and tissues to their original state of health. Regenerative medicine strategies are being explored to replace diseased or damaged tissue, to reverse the progression of chronic disease, and to normalize congenital defects.
While the regenerative medicine field is in its infancy, a growing number of regenerative medicine treatments are now entering clinical trials, and many have already been approved for use in the clinic. These therapies are generating enormous excitement, both in the scientific community and among patients who have been diagnosed with debilitating conditions. However, the rapid pace of therapeutic development raises important ethical questions about the way that regenerative medicines are offered and used in practice.
The development of regenerative medicine often relies on small, nonrandomized studies, and it can be difficult to recruit enough patients to provide adequate statistical power. In addition, some of the regenerative medicines in clinical development target rare diseases, which further limits the pool of potential participants. This combination of challenges creates a dilemma for researchers and patients: regenerative medicine has the potential to address significant unmet medical needs, but the availability of new therapies is often impeded by the traditional clinical trial process.
Despite these obstacles, it is clear that the future of healthcare will include regenerative medicine. A regenerative medicine approach could treat a wide range of diseases and injuries, ranging from complex brain tumors to heart failure. Regenerative medicine may even cure chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, that have long been treated only with medications and lifestyle changes.
A number of different strategies are being explored to regenerate tissue, from recapitulating organ and tissue structure with materials such as biodegradable scaffolds and 3D printing to introducing cell-based therapeutics that can directly repair or replace cells and their functions. A further strategy involves altering the host environment to promote regeneration, for example by vascularizing and innervating grafts or modulating the immune response to encourage an appropriate healing response. Ultimately, creating an environment that promotes regeneration will likely prove the most effective in advancing regenerative medicine.