In the expanding field of regenerative medicine, new avenues of research in the field - cell therapy, gene therapy, gene modified cell therapy, and tissue engineering could unlock a deeper understanding of body healing mechanisms and the regeneration of tissue that could be applied for new therapies.
Over the past few years, this field has started to come of age. Over the next decade, it will, many believe, achieve its long-anticipated potential, and begin to fundamentally reshape clinical medicine as we know it.
An aspect of Regenerative Medicine that has been the talk for many years is the use of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells of the human body with the capability to differentiate into any cell of an organism and also have the ability of self-renewal. Stem cells reside in embryos and adult cells. There are several steps of specialisation however, as specialisation progresses, developmental potency is reduced with each step which means that a unipotent stem cell is not able to differentiate into as many types of cells as a pluripotent one.
Regenerative therapies in the market:
The delivery of therapeutic cells that directly contribute to the structure and function of new tissues is a principal paradigm of regenerative medicine to date. The cells used in these therapies are either autologous or allogeneic and are typically differentiated cells that still maintain proliferative capacity. For example, Carticel, the first FDA-approved biologic product which utilises autologous chondrocytes for the treatment of focal articular cartilage defects.
Other examples of Regenerative therapies currently on the market include 1aViv, an anti-aging treatment in which autologous fibroblasts are injected to improve the nasolabial fold wrinkles. Epicel is another Regenerative medicine therapy that utilises autologous keratinocytes to treat severe burns.
Future Regenerative therapies:
Eye disease and Neural Disorders have been a prime target for stem cell treatments. Clinical trials using stem cell transplants to treat macular degeneration have shown promising potential due to positive results and improved conditions in test patients. Turning to the nervous system, just a few months ago, Japanese scientists announced a world-first clinical trial where patients with Parkinson’s have adult stem cells injected into their brain with the hope of restoring normal function. This potential treatment is years away from clinical use but results so far are promising. Possibly the most exciting prospect for regeneration therapy is in situ tissue repair, where doctors would activate the stem cells already in our bodies for self-regeneration.
There are still major hurdles to overcome before stem cell treatments are used as the standard treatments but the potential to cure many incurable diseases and conditions is promising.