February 01, 2020

Regenerative medicine

Stem cells and beyond

Regenerative medicine is a rapidly growing — but still largely experimental — field that takes a new approach to treating disease. It attempts to restore health by rejuvenating, repairing or replacing damaged or degenerating cells, tissues and organs. The goal is to restore form and function by relying on the body's ability to heal itself. The potential to find cures, improve care outcomes and boost quality of life stretches to a vast menu of opportunities throughout the body and throughout life. The tools to reach these goals are diverse. They're often based on various types of stem cells. These are special cells that can divide and multiply to produce any type of the more specialized cells in the body, and can be coaxed to promote body healing.

Principles of regenerative medicine are already being used in medical practice with improvements in bone marrow transplantation, treatment for some cancers and early prevention of congenital lung deformities even before birth. Researchers and doctors are developing regenerative medicine techniques to ensure better ways to treat a range of medical problems including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, stroke and dementia.

Significant investment is fueling the growth of regenerative science and its application in medical care. Mayo Clinic has established a Center for Regenerative Medicine. The National Institutes of Health, with funding from Congress, has established the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project. Still, the field is young and most related work happens in the laboratory or in clinical trials rather than in a hospital bed. The ethical dimensions of implementing...