Regenerative Medicine has been defined as the ‘process of replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function’ (Regenerative Medicine; 2012v7n3pS1:)
It has the potential to regenerate tissues and organs which have been damaged through injury or disease. It also allows scientists to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory which can then be implanted. The process of growing organs in a laboratory is often referred to as tissue engineering.
To generate new organs, scientists combine cells with ‘biomaterials’, which act as scaffolds on which new tissue can be formed. Recent advances in materials science has led to ‘smart’ biomaterials, which can control and direct cell biology and tissue formation. Organs can also be rapidly designed and made to order, for example, using 3D printing.
Our increased understanding of both embryonic and adult stem cells, combined with our ability to control their differentiation, has allowed scientists to use them in regenerative medicine therapies. It is hoped that stem cells and regenerative medicine will revolutionise medicine in the future.