When injured or invaded by disease, our bodies have the innate response to heal and defend. What if it was possible to harness the power of the body to heal and then accelerate it in a clinically relevant way? What if we could help the body heal better?

The promising field of Regenerative Medicine is working to restore structure and function of damaged tissues and organs. It is also working to create solutions for organs that become permanently damaged. The goal of this medicine is to find a way to cure previously untreatable injuries and diseases.

Scientific research is working to make treatments available for clinical use. Treatments include both in vivo and in vitro procedures. In vivo meaning studies and trials performed inside the living body in order to stimulate previously irreparable organs to heal themselves.  In vito treatments are applied to the body through implantation of a therapy studied inside the laboratory.

There are four concentrations in the field of regenerative medicine:


Medical devices and artificial organs

Regenerative medicine concentration: Medical devices and artificial organsImagine if you where unable to control your bladder. Yes, your bladder. People all over the world are unable to do this due to a birth defect called spina bifida.

Some patients must manually empty their bladder but the complications don’t end there. The inability to urinate at will, or even to regulate the build up of urine, could cause back up into the kidneys, creating life-threatening damage.

But wait, a revolutionary event has occurred! A series of child and teenage patients have received urinary bladders grown from their own cells!  This is the first ever laboratory-grown organ transplant placed into a human, all made possible by Regenerative Medicine.

Regenerative Medicine is working to improve the quality of life for patients all over the world. Scientists work with this powerful technology to create new body parts from a patient’s own cells and tissues. Success of these efforts will eliminate the concept of tissue rejection.

Learn more about the study of artificial organs and how scientists are working to replace damaged or diseased tissue with synthetic devices (fully artificial organs) or synthetic and cellular components (biohybrid organs).

Also find out how medical devices provide the ability to sustain patients during their long wait for a donor organ, and occasionally eliminate the need for a transplant altogether.

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Tissue engineering and biomaterials

Regenerative medicine concentration: Tissue engineering and biomaterialsThe goal of regenerative medicine is to one day be capable of maintaining the body in such a way there will be no need to replace whole organs. Some diseases are so destructive that traditional medicine can only cure them by giving patients entirely new organs.

Heart disease affects many Americans and the only current solution requires a heart transplant. Even if a patient is able to survive long enough to receive a heart, there is no promise that the body will not reject the foreign organ.

Heart disease affects the valves of the heart causing them to fail. The two conventional ways to replace heart valves include implanting a mechanical device or a pig aortic valve. However, complications are very common. Blood clots can easily form around the mechanical devices, forcing patients on blood thinners. Also, in an effort to stop the body from rejecting the pig aortic valve it is chemically treated. Inadvertently, this chemical changes the biological makeup of the cells rendering them helpless to regenerate when common minor tears form.

Regenerative medicine has already successfully grown heart valves from human cells. With the use of biomaterials to create a mold, scientists engineer the cells to grow in the form of a heart valve.

Once mastered in clinical trials, any transplant patient will be able to receive a heart valve that is essentially their own, making reject a non-issue. Regenerative medicine hopes to one day be able to repair these valves without even having to perform surgery.

Learn more about the future possibilities of tissue engineering to replace, repair, maintain, and/or enhance tissue function for clinical use.

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Cellular Therapies

Regenerative medicine concentration: Cellular therapiesImagine a young child suffering from leukemia. Even though they can receive effective treatments to eliminate cancer cells, their healthy cells are also being destroyed.

Their little bodies now have a drastic need for new cells. These cells must come from another source, like bone marrow from a compatible donor. Most often, finding a compatible donor is far from an easy task.

What if you had a stash of your own cells so, whenever you needed, you could regenerate your system back to normal?  The umbilical cord, usually discarded at birth, holds blood vessels that contain about a half-cup of blood that belongs to the newborn child. That blood contains many stem cells.

Our body uses stem cells as one way of repairing itself. What if you could chose to collect and store that blood?  There could be a possibility those cells might be used in the future to help your body remain healthy. This is one concept Regenerative Medicine is working to understand.

Find out more about how cellular therapies and stem cells can act as a repair mechanism for tissues lost to trauma, disease, and wear and tear.

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Clinical Translation

Regenerative medicine concentration: Clinical Translation Clinical translation puts promising therapies into active trials.  Everyday Regenerative medicine is making great progress in the advancement of medicine. Once this new technology becomes widely used in clinical practice, the potential benefits to the US health care system and economy will be enormous. In the US, National Health Expenditures grew 5.8% to $3.2 trillion in 2015, or $9,990 per person, and accounted for 17.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The following are examples of some conditions and diseases that regenerative medicine has the potential to cure and what the current state of treatment looks like:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year; that is 1 in every 4 deaths. Heart disease costs the United States about $207 billion each year.
  • Valvular heart disease--Each year, VHD in the U.S. accounts for over 20,000 deaths and over 90,000 hospitalizations at a cost of nearly $9 billion. The overall prevalence of VHD in the U.S. is 2.5 percent, but the prevalence increases to over 13 percent for those aged 75 years and older.
  • Diabetes--More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases a persons risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. More than 20% of health care spending is for people with diagnosed diabetes.

Learn more about the progress of Clinical Translation.

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Leading Research Centers
Many research centers around the world are addressing various regenerative medicine-based therapies. The following have substantial programs that offer in the long term new paradigms for treating many injuries, illnesses and diseases:
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Institute for Frontier Medical Science, Kyoto University
Georgia Tech & Emory Center for Regenerative Medicine
University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Carnegie Mellon University Biomedical Engineering

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