Regenerative Medicine is the practice of replacing and regenerating human or animal tissues and organs to restore proper function to the impaired parts, usually damaged due to trauma, disease, or age.
The Regenerative Medicine field relies on the practice of stimulating the body’s primary healing mechanisms to restore the damaged areas. In a situation where the body is incapable of healing itself, scientists attempt to grow healthy cells and tissues in labs to replace the impaired ones by implantation. The practice differs from the usual process of treating symptoms of certain conditions, but attempting to manually heal them.
How do these scientists grow healthy cells? The answer is stem cells! Stem cells are unique as their purpose is to grow into a variety of specialized cells which serve many vital purposes in the body (e.g. muscle cells, brain cells..). Stem cells are vital and are the primary aspect of Regenerative Medicine.
There are 3 primary “concentrations” in Regenerative Medicine, Tissue Engineering, Cellular Therapy, and Artificial Organs/ Devices.
Tissue Engineering is a strategy used by practitioners where a biologically suitable scaffold is positioned and implanted at the area where the new tissue is to be regenerated. If the tissue is in the proper shape of the tissue being generated, the scaffold attracts nearby cells, resulting in the new tissue forming in the desired shape.
Cell Therapy centers around inserting harvested adult stem cells into damaged or diseased tissue to repair impaired organs under the ideal conditions. These stem cells may be collected from fat, blood, skeletal muscle, and the bone marrow (spongy tissue inside bone where blood cells are formed). Cord blood also provides a source of adult stem cells scientists are willing to use.
Artificial organs are the first resort when an organ fails. However, there are many challenges with obtaining a suitable donor. Such as availability and possible side effects when ingesting immunosuppressive drugs. To aid those with organ failures, scientists are working to engineer devices which can supplement the functions of the primary organs before failure.
Regenerative Medicine also allows researchers to understand how diseases develop, through the study of stem cell growth.
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