Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering refer to the science of combining scaffolds, cell and biologically active molecules to create functional tissues that will work in the human body. While there are differences between tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, the terms have become interchangeable as scientists seek ways to cure complex, chronic diseases.
The science is used to create materials that restore, maintain or improve damaged bodily tissues or even entire organs. The FDA has approved artificial skin and cartilage but these engineered tissues aren’t commonly used in human patients.
Regenerative medicine includes tissue engineering as well as research on self-healing practices. This can include things like stem cell injections and platelet rich plasma injections that encourage your body to use its own systems to regenerate cells and rebuild tissues.
What’s the Science Behind Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine?
Cells make up tissues, and tissues serve as the basic functional unit in your body. Cellular groups make their own support structures, called an extra-cellular matrix. This matrix also serves as a relay station to signal various molecules and has the ability to start a chain of responses to determine what happens to the cell. When researchers understand how individual cells respond to signals and interact with their environment, they can manipulate the processes to fix damaged tissues or create entirely new ones.
How Are Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Used in Medicine?
At this point, tissue engineering doesn’t have a big role in patient treatment. Some patients have received bladders, small arteries, skin grafts, cartilage and a full trachea. However, these procedures are very expensive and still in the experimental stages.
Complex organ tissues like heart, lung and liver tissue have been successfully grown in labs, but these artificial organs won’t be widely used for years to come. Even so, lab grown tissues are useful as new drugs are developed. Using these tissues helps screen medication candidates and speed up development of new drug therapies at a cheaper cost and without having to use animals for research. Additionally, researchers have had some success regrowing cartilage following microsurgery using injections of a biological gel.
To learn more about the future of regenerative medicine and how we currently use it in our Jacksonville orthopedics practice, contact us today.Return to Blog