At its core, regenerative medicine leverages the natural concept that our bodies can self-heal. When we cut our skin, it usually heals quite well on its own. We can give part of our liver to someone in need of a transplant, and our own liver will re-grow.
What researchers and physicians involved in regenerative medicine are coming to understand more clearly is that some organs believed to remain the same throughout our lives really do regenerate. Organs such as the heart, for example, may be able to refresh or rejuvenate themselves. But they do so slowly, at a rate that is not fast enough to repair a failing heart after a heart attack, for example. That’s where regenerative medicine comes in. The goal is to apply therapies that will boost the heart’s innate ability to heal and repair itself.
The same concept of healing from within applies to other organs, too. Researchers and clinicians working together are currently trying to understand and increase the speed and the efficiency with which each of our organs can self-repair. They will use the information to help find the best regenerative solutions to enhance that existing natural ability.
Increasingly, as this field advances, we will be well-equipped to go after the root cause of many medical problems. So in many ways, regenerative medicine provides a remarkable opportunity to move forward, beyond the scope of current medicine, ultimately offering curative solutions and transforming the health care landscape. The first steps in this exciting domain are very promising. — Andre Terzic, M.D. Ph.D., Center for Regenerative Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.