What is Regenerative Medicine? The Benefits and Ethics

Authored or posted by | Updated on | Published on April 8, 2014
Share Button
Stem Cell

Screenshot from YouTube.com / AlliantContent

If you have damaged tissues, lost limbs or organ problems, would you want to have a way to restore your damaged tissues, so that you can be healthy again? Fortunately, there is a branch of science-based medicine that is trying to solve the problem of restoring damaged tissues, which is known as regenerative medicine. Unfortunately, there is still some ethical issues that need to be resolved before regenerative medicine can be used with major support from the public.

What is regenerative medicine?

In broad terms, regenerative medicine is a therapy that combines science and medicine to assist the body to repair, replace and regenerate damaged tissues and organs. This type of science-based medicine can be used to repair damaged heart muscles, restore burned or damaged skin, or replace damaged organs. It can also be used to treat spinal cord injury and bone disease.

One of the main goals of regenerative medicine is to extend and improve people’s quality of life by restoring their body back to a normal functional state. To achieve this goal, regenerative medicine focuses on a variety of research areas, including but not limited to biomaterials engineering, transplantation science, cell therapy and tissue engineering.

The ethics of regenerative medicine

Some regenerative therapy techniques involve the use of human stem cells. Using human stem cells to cure or treat disease and health condition is a hot debate that has sensitive ethical issues. One of the moral dilemmas of stem cells is that it pushes people to choose between two moral principles, which are to alleviate suffering or respect the value of human life.

A type of stem cell research that has a lot of controversy involves embryonic stem cell. The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that both of the moral principles in the previous paragraph are violated to a certain degree. To obtain embryonic stem cells to use for regenerative medicine, the embryo has to be destroyed to extract the necessary tissue; therefore, destroying a potential human life. However, embryonic stem cell research could lead to new medical treatments that could cure “incurable disease” and chronic health conditions.

Regenerative medicine and organ transplant

A group of scientists from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has done some promising experiments involving stem cells and organ regeneration. Here is a short excerpt from Phys.org about their experiments involving fish embryos.

Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overcome one of the greatest challenges in biology and taken a major step toward being able to grow whole organs and tissues from stem cells. By manipulating the appropriate signaling, the U.Va. researchers have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.

… The importance of that is profound. “If we know how to instruct embryonic cells,” she said, “we can pretty much do what we want.” For example, scientists will be able one day to instruct stem cells to grow into organs needed for transplant.

Is it possible to grow human organs and tissues without embryonic stem cells?

Stem cell regenerative therapy that involves embryonic stem cells is often frowned upon by people who are pro-life. The good news is that scientists are finding new ways to grow human tissues and organs without using embryonic stem cells. Some scientists are using stem cells from human skin cells to grow organs and tissues. Their research still has some flaws but this method of growing organs eliminates some ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cells. To learn more about this topic, visit Gizmodo.com.

The benefits of regenerative medicine and stem cells research

Many people shy away from regenerative medicine because some branches of this science-based medicine involve the use of embryonic stem cells. With better technology and research, scientists will eventually be able to grow human organs and tissues without the use of embryonic stem cells. Regenerative medicine does have a lot of health benefits. If done correctly and used with respect to nature and life, regenerative medicine can cure many health problems.

Here is a list of some of the benefits of regenerative medicine:

  • Increases longevity
  • Reduces the effects of aging
  • Eliminates organ transplant rejection
  • Can be used to replace damaged organs, skin and bones
  • Can be used to treat cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, neurological disorders and age related disease

Below is a list of some promising stem cells applications:

  • Hair, retina and nerve regeneration
  • Skin, cartilage, bone and tooth regeneration
  • Heart, liver, brain tissue regeneration
  • Macular degeneration prevention

Sources:

  • http://www.pall.com/main/medical/frequently-asked-questions-cell-therapy-38848.page
  • http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/embyronic-stem-cell-research-ethical-dilemma
  • http://phys.org/news/2014-04-scientists-barrier-stem-cells.html
  • https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2003/11/stem-cells-regenerative-medicine-and-tissue-engineering.php
Share Button


Tags: , , ,

Category: Life Extension & Rejuvenation, Science & Medicine

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Nash Rich says:

    I always thought the idea of regenerative medicine was cool, but it is a hard area of debate. I personally think it’s really interesting and should be tested, but within limits. I think being able to regrow organs and parts of the body would be really helpful.