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What is Regenerative Medicine?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2019
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Regenerative medicine is an immensely complicated topic and field of study that has very promising implications for improving human health. The field can be called multidisciplinary because numerous researchers from different disciplines participate in studying and advancing it and these include medical researchers, tissue engineers, geneticists, biologists, chemists and others. Essentially regenerative medicine focuses on how to heal the body or restore its full functioning, which can be done in a number a ways. Various parts of the body can be replaced or restored through cellular or other manipulation in order to accomplish this task.

Much of the work in this emerging field involves research and manipulation of stem cells, and some of the most exciting advances in this area has been using a person’s own stem cells to regrow tissue. A critical concern of transplantation technology remains the rate of rejection when a person receives transplanted organs or tissue from someone else. As yet, only a few studies have replicated human organs, and the most promising of these has been done by actually growing human bladders. However, there is hope with regenerative medicine that eventually any type of organ could be grown from a patient’s cells and used to replace faulty or failing organs. Similarly, research in this area aims to eventually generate different external parts of the body to replace those damaged, removed, or injured beyond repair.

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Another area of regenerative medicine works with attempting to “recode” or reprogram instructions in the body at the cellular level. Certain methods might be used to help a body increase insulin production, thus possibly ending diabetic dependence on insulin. Alternately, basic cells could be employed to reduce immune response in autoimmune disorders, or stop degeneration of brain tissue that occurs in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to remember the whole goal of this form of medicine is to restore “normal function.” Thus it very much aims at not only preserving life, but improving quality of life, which is a major concern as medicine has been able to extend life, but not always to do so in a way that improves its quality or makes it bearable.

It can be said that regenerative medicine is a continually evolving field, and its potential applications could prove so beneficial that there are numerous private companies and public hospitals or research facilities attempting to quickly develop new discoveries. Research in this area can be considered analogous to the space race, but there are many more private industries involved in the competition, each hoping to develop helpful and profitable technologies that can be patented. One obstacle is that some people view this field as ethically and morally challenging because it can utilize embryonic stem cells, though it also uses other forms of stem cells that are not generally viewed as potentially human life.

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