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Will 2012 Offer new Ways to Treat Disease with Regenerative Medicine?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
2012 may find new ways to treat disease using regenerative medicine.

Alan Russell, PhD has proposed that medicine can do better than just treating symptoms of disease. His question has been “Why not engineer new tissue and organs to replace sick ones”, instead of just treating symptoms? Thanks to Russell and like-minded researchers, 2012 may offer entirely new ways to treat disease using regenerative medicine.

Russell, who is a professor of surgery -- and of chemical engineering, says we live longer because we’re getting richer and can spend more money on health care, but we need to look at healing the body rather than just treating symptoms.

He says there are very few things that can really promote “healthy aging”, other than disease prevention. His goal is to find new ways to intervene early in disease processes in ways that make the body whole again.

Russell’s proposition is that research should focus more on regenerative medicine that could be done in every organ system of the body - - for instance, injecting the pancreas with cells that can help healing when diabetes is diagnosed early.

He says “If we get sick, the message is we will treat your symptoms and you need to adjust to a new way of life.”

Instead, he says regenerative rehabilitation could do a better job than just giving medications to patients.

Russell explains that DNA has the capacity to naturally heal the body, a process that is lost with aging. To change the way we heal, we need to “listen to the body’s language”.

He gives 3 examples of what’s already available and being used:

  1. Cellular therapies: If we can find the right cells to implant in the body, the body might heal.
  2. New materials: If we can design, invent or extract materials from the natural environment, we might be able to induce the body to
    heal itself.
  3. Smart devices that could “offload the work of the body and allow it to heal.”

Russell shows a horrific diabetic ulcer during a 2007 TED talk that affected a woman who decided to die with the ulcer rather than face amputation. The woman also had cancer.

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In his slides, he shows a dramatic improvement in the ulcer that had been unsuccessfully treated for a year, using natural materials that regenerate tissue.

In another example, Russell shows a fingertip that was severed and regenerated using a gel containing natural materials.

Stem cell therapy is also highlighted by Russell as he shows a procedure where stem cells are injected into a beating heart during a clinical trial to promote healing after coronary bypass surgery.

Liposuction fluid can be a source of stem cells, and it’s plentiful in the U.S., which can be turned into neurons.

Five years after his TED talk, Russell’s team is still making headway with innovative ideas on how to help human health.

This year, Dr. Russell, who is the founding director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, at the University of Pittsburgh, is also Editor-in-Chief for the new journal “Disruptive Science and Technology”.

According to Russell, who was unable to publish in conservative medical journals, “We want to emphasize to our readers that instead of thinking ‘outside the box,’ we are showing them that there is no box.”

2012 may indeed bring a new approaches for managing disease with regenerative medicine that incorporates biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, genetics, medicine, robotics, and more to tackle challenging medical problems that plague humans.

MCGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
What is Regenerative Medicine?

Disruptive Science and Technology

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Author: Ghanson