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Regenerative Medicine is a broad term used to describe the most innovative health care treatments now being developed to provideor restore function in diseased, aged or injured tissues and organs. It encompasses cellular therapies, tissue engineering, artificial
organs and biohybrid organs. This rapidly expanding interdisciplinary field links medical and surgical disciplines as well as intensive care and transplantation medicine.
The working methods used in the field of Regenerative Medicine range from the integration of basic cell biology, applied biotechnology, biomaterials and medical devices. This is accomplished through medical practice, and its purpose is to re-establish tissue function or to support the regeneration of organs (impaired by disease, ageing or injury). These developments are based on an understanding of the mechanisms of tissue formation and regeneration in embryonic, adult and aged tissue. Current investigations include studies on the cellular behavior of inflammation, regeneration, neoplasm and degeneration.
Some therapy concepts involve boosting the patient's own tissue healing process by allowing the affected organ to rest and recuperate. During this time, tissue stem cells can become active. Extracorporeal liver cell systems, for example, are used to functionally relieve the liver in order to enhance the liver's natural healing ability. These applications focus on acute diseases. Other therapy concepts utilize the potential of transplantable cells, e.g. skin, muscle or neuronal cells, to repair or regenerate damaged tissue by precursor cell mediated tissue reformation. This may lead to the next generation of transplantation, using the body’s own reparative stem/progenitor cells. Here the focus is on chronically diseased tissue or organs. Cellular therapy employs cell cultures for:
• Temporary extracorporeal organ support for organ relief
• Transplantation of cells to restore organ function
• Application of growth factors produced by cells to stimulate tissue regeneration in the organs
The cells may be derived from cell lines, human transplant discards, cell donors, or from the patient's own stem cell population. One of the major focus areas of Regenerative Medicine research is on the utilization of stem cells. Cells are maintained, differentiated and/or proliferated in vitro, outside the body. 3D tissue-density co-culture bioreactors provide the technology platform for such in vitro cell cultures. Bioreactors provide an environment required by the cells in order to produce regenerative mediators. They also enable cell multiplication, providing a source of transplantable cells for healing tissue. Finally, bioreactors serve as a tool for extracorporeal organ support.
Prospects for Developing Companies
Biotechnology companies are required to provide devices and service to enable innovative patient therapies. Regenerative Medicine also opens opportunities for the development of innovative companies.