The world of regenerative medicine is an exciting place, full of possibilities still unimagined. Implications of its use span far and wide, from pharmaceutical testing to total organ replacement. Experimental efforts for every human organ and tissue are currently underway.
While there are endless potential applications for stem cells and regenerative medicine, these 6 will illuminate how exciting it is to be studying regenerative medicine today.
1. Pharmaceutical Testing
The current model upon which we use to test drugs is unsustainable. Big drug companies are spending big money with a 99% failure rate. The consequence of this is felt by the consumer’s wallet, as necessary drugs and drug therapy costs continue to rise.
It takes up to 13 years and at least $4 billion dollars before a drug reaches approval. The process is lengthy to ensure our safety. We absolutely need rules and regulations to create a safe and effective product.
But, what if we could change the way drugs are being tested?
Stem cells can be used to model diseases. Animal and human test subjects can take a break once the system adjusts to these exciting discoveries.
By observing the way certain chemicals (drugs) interact with various human cells, we can determine the efficacy of the drug in a petri dish. Scientists can test the effect of a drug on a healthy liver cell, a liver cell with cirrhosis, a liver cell with hepatitis, etc.
Leveling up some of the pre-clinical and clinical trials to accommodate the use of stem cells versus animals and humans can create safer, cheaper drugs much faster.
2. Tissue Engineering
Essentially, implanting healthy tissue into an area suffering disease or injury. In order for the tissue to be successfully engineered, there are 3 requirements.
- Correct medium containing the factor that will provide the desired stimulation to guide the stem cells into being.
- Stable, macroenvironment with adequate temperature, pH, gas rate (such as a bioreactor).
- Three-dimensional organic structure providing the right microenvironment for cell proliferation, growth, and differentiation, also known as a scaffold.
Thus far, the most successful examples of tissue engineering are found amongst heart cells and soft tissue spinal cord cells. Understanding regenerative medicine will lead to greater and more applications involving tissue engineering.
3. CAR T-Cell Therapy
CAR T-Cell therapy has proven to be a viable cancer immunotherapy treatment in clinical trials. In blood cancers, bone marrow can be replaced which reconstitutes the immune system. This treatment can be successful for many, but it is not for everyone and the risks are great.
CAR T-Cell therapy seeks to boost the immune system using the patients’ own T-Cells. Thus, arming your body’s defense system with advanced weapons to fight against mutations or malignant cells. Think of T-Cells as your very own domestic security system.
Cancer cells are dangerous not only because of their ability to replicate ceaselessly, but also because of their ability to go incognito and disguise themselves from being captured and destroyed by T-cells.
CAR T-Cell therapy Process:
- Blood sample is taken from the patient
- T-Cells are separated from blood
- T-Cells undergo modification through introduction of a new gene
- Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) multiply on T-Cells
- Cells are preserved in liquid nitrogen for testing
- Patient receives a low dose of chemotherapy to prevent rejection
- Advanced T-Cells are introduced back into the patients body
CAR T-Cell therapy is a living drug boosting the livelihood of all your immune cells. In early clinical trials CAR T-Cell therapy boasts a 4/5 success rate.
4. Medical Devices
The development of the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) owes its’ life-saving properties to the study of regenerative medicine. A VAD is a small pump inserted into either ventricle of the heart (or both), which aids in the pumping and circulation of blood to the body.
If you are not eligible for a heart transplant or have been waiting long enough that further damage to your body is inevitable, a VAD is used to vastly improve patients’ health and life expectancy.
5. Organ Printing
Remember when we all thought 3-D printing was the coolest tech around?
Bioprinting technology has not yet produced a successfully functioning organ, however, it has been able to replicate soft tissues and bones. This nascent technology holds so much exciting potential for the future of medicine.
These bioprinters do not use ink, but rather special bio-gels that create 3-D replicas of specific body parts. These printed parts are then seeded with the patients’ own stem cells and used to improve functions to diseased or injured parts.
6. Trouble With Transplants
At any given time, there are up to 100,000 patients waiting for organ transplants. If lucky enough to be granted an organ in time, the surgeries are not guaranteed.
In order for a patient to receive a new organ, they must undergo immunosuppression therapies. They must sacrifice their immune systems in the hopes that the new organ will not be rejected. Often, long-term anti-rejection therapy is necessary.
The scientific and medical technology to replace an organ is incredible and very risky. Through the study and practice of regenerative medical techniques, the risk of such transfers may be reduced.
The risk of organ rejection can be diminished through the use of the patients’ own stem cells. The potential damage done to the body from immunosuppressant treatments would no longer be a factor.
The use of adult stem cells to successfully stimulate the body’s own regenerative capabilities would also negate the need and demand for organs. By developing a new source for human organs we end the entirely unethical and criminal ways in which some organs are ‘obtained’.
The Future of Regenerative Medicine
What is regenerative medicine? Let’s recap…
Regenerative medicine combines molecular biology, immunology, genetics, and biochemistry. Studies focus on specially-grown tissues and cells, the development of artificial organs, lab-made compounds and chemicals. Then combining these therapies with conventional approaches to achieve a less invasive, longer-lasting treatment options.
The future of regenerative medicine is very exciting. Imagine a world where we can all afford safe and effective drugs and no longer suffer to be victims of our bodies or wallets.
Understanding regenerative medicine is the key to evolving our scientific and medical communities to greater solutions to our health. Want to know more?
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