The 5 Promises of Regenerative Medicine
The medical community has never seen as much hype as stem cells since the last medical breakthrough. Antibiotics have been a blessing in prolonging our lifespans, but the promise of regenerating and replacing what has been lost is on a new league of enticement. In fact, what stem cells have to offer is so great that a new field of medicine—regenerative medicine—has been established to explore their practical applications.
Despite their rise to fame, most of the general public are in the dark of what regenerative medicine is capable of. Dubious stem cell clinics and sham treatments in the past have raised a wary eyebrow in governments worldwide, and regenerative medicine has since been painted red. Yet, it behoves us as innovative humans to uncover the full extent of stem cells and regenerative medicine. The promise of replacing and regenerating cells and tissues to restore a function that has been lost, or even to establish function that was initially absent, is too great to ignore.
1. It is biology.
The great thing about stem cells is that they’re not drugs. They are biological components that are seemingly sentient when introduced into the body. They are the very material that gives rise to a foetus, and eventually, the human body. When applied in medicine, stem cells are able to figure out where they are needed through a series of innate chemical signalling produced by the body, and travel to the target site to carry out repairs.
As a counterexample, chemotherapeutic drugs are introduced into the body to destroy cancer cells, but they do so unselectively. Anything that comes into contact with the chemical gets killed, including healthy cells native to the body. Stem cells not only restores the lost cells, but are able to identify where it is most damaged if they are sourced from the recipient’s own body.
Stem cells are able to revert our body to a prior, healthier state, and in doing so buys us time. These features make stem cells perfectly poised to revolutionise medicine, and extensive research are being done to ensure their feasibility. When all is said and done, it’s harder for the lost to heal the body than to destroy the foreign. Stem cells fill the gap that’s been missing in modern medicine for so long, and on top of that, promises so much more.
2. It doesn’t require constant administration.
Due to their regenerative capabilities, stem cells are able to, an extent, address the underlying damage that causes disease. Kidney disease for example is caused by damage to the kidney, and stem cells are able to replace the kidney cells lost. In doing so, the inherent problem that causes faulty functioning is addressed.
Contrast this to drugs that only act to suppress the mechanism that causes damage and it becomes apparent where the disadvantages lie. Drugs have to be constantly taken to control disease progression and deterioration. Stem cells on the other hand can repair the damage and restore optimal functioning, making repeat treatments unnecessary unless the damage reoccurs.
3. It contributes to modern medicine.
The versatility of regenerative medicine is so vast that its reaches span into conventional medicine. Every drug on the market today is the result of exhaustive research, one stage of which requires a striking dummy for the drugs to target.
In order for drugs to be tested for effectiveness, cells that mimic those found in diseased organisms are to be used for accuracy. Since the discovery of stem cells, embryonic stem cells have been cultured to take up characteristics of diseased cells. These dummy cells are then subjected to different kinds of drugs to determine their efficacy in treating the disease.
Today, stem cell of speedier growth rates are used to quickly produce a large number of dummies for drug testing. This process, called drug discovery, contributes to the vast number of drugs available in the market today.
4. It can treat incurable conditions.
Some afflictions are insurmountable. Sickle cell anaemia, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few, are diseases with no known cure. Researchers are only scratching the surface of what they do and how they do it. Diseases with unknown causes also, unfortunately, mean that their cures are nowhere close to being found.
Despite this, modern medicine has given its best effort in improving quality of life in patients suffering from such incurable conditions. Surgical procedures and oral medication have been effective in stalling disease progression, but these interventions are rarely, if ever, corrective.
An interesting case for regenerative medicine was illustrated in the transplantation of bone marrow in sickle cell anaemia patients. The bone marrow is pivotal in producing blood cells, and their transplant from a healthy individual to the disease sufferer resulted in healthy blood cells being produced in the patient. The stem cells in the healthy bone marrow were able to create healthy, normal cells, so that the sickle-shaped cells are heavily outnumbered.
While this does not directly address the cause of sickle cell anaemia—the cause of which is genetic—it does offer a therapeutic effect, and establishes a function that was previously impaired in the patient.
5. It reverses organ damage.
We’ve marvelled at starfish for their ability to regrow lost appendages. In a perfect world, we’d be able to reverse the damage done to out organs caused by poor lifestyle choices. Regenerative medicine would return our bodies to tip-top shape through the introduction of stem cells into our bodies that would carry out the necessary repairs to our worn and beaten livers.
For those free from vices, regenerative medicine could also help in more unfortunate cases of organ damage. Chemotherapy is infamous for damaging the body, while being one of the main treatments for cancer.
With regenerative medicine, we wouldn’t have to make compromises. Hard chemicals are introduced into cancer patients to eliminate cancer cells; and stem cells are infused after to regenerate the body’s cells that may have been killed alongside cancerous ones.