Regenerative medicine is an emerging and interdisciplinary field whose objective is the replacement or regeneration of structurally and functionally damaged tissue or organ cells. To achieve this, it uses different technological approaches, based on the technology of the stem cells, soluble molecules that have an effect on these cells, among others.
Which fields is it related to?
Regenerative medicine is linked to various fields of science, such as genetic engineering, tissue engineering and advanced cell therapy. These fields, based on the body’s own self-healing, can lead to compliance with the goals proposed by this branch of current medicine.
What is the primary stem cell?
The primary stem cell is the zygote, which has totipotentiality. It means that it has the total capacity to generate tissues. In other words, this primary cell has the ability to reproduce and generate any type of body tissue. As the zygote develops, the cells become involved in the production of specific tissues and begin to lose this characteristic.
During life, some types of cells maintain the ability to reproduce and generate different cell lineages, this is the case of blood cells and skin. Although these groups of cells maintain this potential, it is small if we compare it to the initial capacity of the zygote.
What distinguishes regenerative medicine?
There are four main aspects of regenerative medicine:
1) The studies of the ability to differentiate stem cells in adult tissues.
2) The development of techniques for the assembly of cells in three-dimensional structures.
3) The development of biomaterials.
4) The generation of complete organs (such as the liver, brain, and kidneys). This last aspect has not yet been achieved. However, we estimate that it may be possible in 10 to 20 years. It is worth mentioning that there are already simple tissues developed in the laboratory used in skin and bone tissue transplants.
There are real possibilities to perform the regeneration of complete organs. However, the regeneration between the different types of organs changes a lot, so the theoretical, methodological and ethical perspective differs.
How does this treatment work?
Cell therapy uses stem cells, embryos or specialized cells in order to develop new tissues to replace diseased or damaged tissues. For instance, a bone marrow transplantation allows replacing the diseased cells of a patient with leukaemia with others of a healthy donor, giving the opportune treatment to cure the disease.
But cell therapy does not limit to working with hematopoietic cells, but from IPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). This enables us to convert these cells into neurons, cardiomyocytes, bones, etc.
There have been many studies which have opened the possibility of curing several diseases such as haemophilia or Fanconi anaemia.
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What is regenerative medicine?