Regenerative medicine is a significant advancement in medical treatment, which is based on the principles of stem cell technology and tissue engineering to replace or regenerate human tissues and organs to help restore their functions.
Although seeds for this field has been laid for over six decades, it was in 1999 that the term “regenerative medicine” was coined to describe an emerging field that encompasses knowledge from other medical fields like cell transportation, tissue engineering, stem cell biology, biomechanics, prosthetics, nanotechnology, and biochemistry.
Today, we’ve come a long way, and there are several FDA-approved regenerative medicines in the market. From Carticel (which is used to repair cartilage defects from acute or repetitive trauma) to cell-based medical devices like Celution (which is used to transfer autologous adipose stem cell).
But this is only the beginning of a great adventure! In the article, we look at some of the future promises of regenerative medicine.
Understanding the Relationship Between Aging and Diseases
Just around 200 years ago, the average human life expectancy was between 30 and 40 years of age. This low life expectancy was primarily caused by diseases. Some so catastrophic, like the bubonic plague that wiped out one-third of the European population in the 14th century.
But when access to better hygiene and life-saving drugs of the 19th century like penicillin came into the picture, life expectancy has dramatically gone up to about 78 years.
However, aging is inextricably associated with failing bodily functions – from Alzheimer’s to heart disease. But that’s not all.
Here’s something even more interesting to note.
The United States is in the fourth stage of its demographic transition, meaning there is a gradual decline in total population. You might think of it as a good thing, but it comes with its unique challenges.
Based on a study by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the population of those aged 65 and over will reach 77 million. And that number will far exceed those aged 18 and below. Hence, we expect an ever-increasing pressure on the healthcare system primarily driven by the aging population.
Future Regenerative Trends to Look Out For
Here are some of the promise regenerative medicine holds for the future:
- Increasing number of late-stage clinical trials and approved therapies.
Phase II trials in medicine development are known for being the riskiest. Now, there are over 600 ongoing Phase II trials – the largest ever. For sure, a considerable amount will end up failing, but those that do make it will take us closer towards victory over what ails us.
Successful projects will inspire additional investment and development, while failures will require an in-depth reassessment of what went wrong, like unanticipated safety issues or low efficacy.
Currently, there are over 100 regenerative medicine projects in Phase III programs. In the end, we anticipate a few dozens to be successful, clinically validated, and made available for public use.
- A shift towards standardized treatment approaches.
A current cornerstone of regenerative treatment is precision medicine. Precision medicine is a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes to prevent, diagnose, or treat disease.
For instance, the introduction of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell technology to treat refractory hematological malignancies in patients is achieved using gene-modified autologous cells. While this approach is effective, it is prohibitively un-scalable and expensive.
Several regenerative medicine companies are working on next-gen processes that apply the same concepts using allogenic platforms so these solutions could be administered off the shelf. This will help make these solutions more scalable and cost-effective.
- Increased collaborations through mergers and acquisitions
Big biopharmaceutical companies are beginning to realize the substantial impact regenerative medicine will have in disease indications and clinical situations where traditional medicine is ineffective.
The exciting medical problems solved by regenerative medicine will help save lots of lives. But for large companies, it presents a special opportunity to generate new revenue streams and boost profitability.
Hence, established companies will be on the lookout for promising approaches that can be acquired to further strengthen their base.
- Radically changing the treatment of injury and disease.
Imagine a world where patients suffering from paralysis can regain full movement. A world where regenerative medicine is used to reverse the course for a scarred heart. A world where the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s no longer means a certain fate of neurodegeneration. Several regenerative medicine research is working hard to make this a reality.
And as noted earlier, regenerative medicine research is used to tackle some of the diseases associated with aging. For instance, worn knee cartilage can be repaired by injecting a regenerative trigger rather than a surgical replacement.
Regenerative medicine is still in its infant stage. Yet, its current beneficial impacts cannot be overemphasized. With the endless potentials associated with this field, the future holds great promises for the betterment of the overall health of the human species.
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