Regenerative medicine creates an opportunity to repair diseased, injured or congenitally defective tissues and organs for patients with conditions that are currently beyond repair. The Center for Regenerative Medicine uses three approaches: rejuvenation, replacement and repair.
Rejuvenation: Rejuvenation means boosting the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Cells in the body once thought to be no longer able to divide (terminally differentiated) — including the highly specialized cells constituting the heart, lungs and nerves — have been shown to be able to remodel and possess some ability to self-heal.
Replacement: Replacement involves using healthy cells, tissues or organs from a living or deceased donor to replace damaged ones. Organ transplants, such as heart and liver transplants, are good examples. The center aims to expand opportunities for transplants by finding ways to overcome the ongoing donor shortage, the need for immunosuppression and challenges with organ rejection.
Regeneration: Regeneration involves delivering specific types of cells or cell products to diseased tissues or organs, where they will ultimately restore tissue and organ function. This can be done through cell-based therapy or by using cell products, such as growth factors. Bone marrow transplants are an example.
What is the role of stem cells?
The body consists of approximately 200 types of cells, each with specific tasks to perform. Because of these differences, like a heart cell’s tasks differing from those of a liver cell, these cells are sometimes referred to as “differentiated.”
Stem cells have the ability to develop through a process called differentiation, changing the cell task into those of many different types of cells, such as skin cells, brain cells, lung cells, etc. Stem cells are a key component of regenerative medicine, as they open the door to new clinical applications.
Many of the regenerative therapies under development at the Center for Regenerative Medicine can begin with a patient’s own cells. For example, a patient’s own skin cells may be collected, reprogrammed in a laboratory to give them certain characteristics, and delivered back to the patient to treat his or her disease.
Through regenerative medicine, our center plans to provide health care solutions to address the following disease areas:
- Gastrointestinal and Digestive
- Inflammatory and Immune