Regenerative Medicine is the future of medicine. Numerous case studies have shown the great potential of this field of medicine; some in practice and others in various research stages.
In Army hospitals, two of the most challenging conditions to treat are: severely burned skin and loss of limbs. The U.S Army scientists have successfully tried new treatments to mitigate these challenges. In collaboration with medical technology companies, they have replaced severely burned skin and transplanted new hands and faces.
Researchers at the Duke University are studying how zebrafish repair their own spinal cord injuries. The scientists expect the study to someday lead to the regeneration of severed spinal cords in humans.
Today, most of the available treatment options for degenerative conditions simply offer relief from symptoms and improved quality of life. Regenerative Medicine seeks to reverse the effects of the condition on the body and eventually cure the diseases.
Morrie Ruffin of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) said, “Regenerative Medicine has the unique ability to alter the fundamental mechanisms of disease, and thereby offer treatment options to patients where there is significant unmet medical need.”
Regenerative Medicine for War Wounds
Regenerative Medicine research is an expensive affair and thus requires significant investment from stakeholders. In Army research, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has invested over $250 million. Over the years scientists funded by the DOD have developed numerous revolutionary products such as a stress-shielding surgical bandage, novel skin replacement strategies, and skin substitutes. These products reduce scarring after surgery, improve recovery from severe burns and reduce the need for skin donors.
The heavy investment in research aims to provide wounded service members and civilians with promising treatment options. In the years to come, researchers hope to be able to perfectly restore tissue back to its original structure, function and aesthetic appeal.
Regenerative Medicine for Spinal Injuries
Kenneth Poss and his team of researchers at the Duke University are studying genetic factors present in zebrafish that enable regeneration of tissues. They have discovered a gene called connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) that is paramount in the regeneration of a severed spinal cord.
An important step in spinal cord regeneration is the formation of a “tissue bridge” across the severed cord. This bridge is formed from the stimulation of glia cells by the factor CTGF.
Poss observed that there is a dire need for Regenerative Medicine researcher to develop treatment techniques that could reverse damage to the spinal cord.
Current findings are a first of many steps towards finding a definitive treatment for spinal cord injuries. It will be years before these findings are applied to humans. The team at Duke University is ready to move to the next stage of this study which studying mice.
Importance of Regenerative Medicine
According to Poss, Regenerative Medicine eliminates the need for transplantation by re-growing healthy tissue. Many lives would be improved by using the body’s innate healing mechanisms to regenerate and restore tissue.
Regenerative Medicine therapies are continuously being developed for cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and cardiovascular diseases. “Even though the majority of people perceive Regenerative Medicine as something of the future, it’s actually here and now,” said Poss.
H/T: Huffington Post