In the future it is hoped that tissue engineering and regenerative medicine will allow us to overcome the problem of the shortage of organs for donation and restore function to tissues and organs which are currently thought to be irreparably damaged. The generation of healthy, functioning tissues and organs, regenerative medicine has the potential to reduce mortality and improve the quality of life of individuals.
For example, scientists hope to create insulin producing pancreatic islets from embryonic stem cells, to cure diabetes; create heart cells and heart muscle to repair human hearts which have been damaged by attack or disease.
In fact scientists and doctors have already used tissue engineering to regenerate tissues. For example it has been used to regenerate cartilage and induce bone growth, create vascular grafts to treat cardiovascular disease, treat burns and chronic or diabetic ulcers, and even grow organs such as whole bladders for implantation. Many of these therapies have utilised adult stem cells, although trials are currently on-going using embryonic stem cells. For example, Advanced Cell Therapy are using embryonic stem cells to treat age-relate macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness.