The term “regenerative medicine” was first used in an article about hospital administration by Leland Kaiser in 1992. It was used as an example of future technologies expected to make a huge impact on hospitals in the future. At that time, it was defined as such: “A new branch of medicine will develop that attempts to change the course of chronic disease and in many instances will regenerate tired and failing organ systems.” Since that time, we have seen great advances in regenerative medicine, with so much more potential in the field.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a substantial advancement in how we treat certain medical conditions and is based on the principles of tissue engineering and stem cell technology to regenerate (replace) organs and tissues to restore proper function.
Thousands of years of research and has led to regenerative medicine finally being recognized as an exceptional option for treatment of chronic diseases, congenital malformations, and acute injuries.
Early Regenerative Medicine
Although its first mention was in 1992, regenerative medicine isn’t a new idea. In fact, records that date all the way back to the 8th century BC indicate that while not completely understood, the theory of regeneration was definitely acknowledged.
Long before the term ‘Regenerative Medicine’ was ever heard of, scientists, philosophers, and physicians in ancient civilizations understood the capabilities, effects, and need for medicinal intervention and were infatuated with the regeneration they had witnessed in nature.
Research in the 1700s proved that development occurs in a series of epigenetic steps – modifications of DNA that are involved in development. The early 1800s brought the discovery that all life is dependent on chemical reactions that happen in our cells, which could be reproduced in the lab. In the 1900s, Alexander Flemming discovered the use of antibiotics, which forever changed the healthcare field.
Soon after, DNA was discovered, which meant that human biology and its systems could be manipulated in a lab. The 20th century would bring a list of new discoveries and techniques.
The Evolution of Regenerative Medicine
- 1968 First cell transplantation – bone marrow transplant
- 1978 Discovery of stem cells in human cord blood
- 1981 First in vitro stem cell line developed from mice
- 1981 First engineered tissue transplant: skin
- 1996 Creation of the first cloned animal – a sheep, named Dolly
- 1998 Isolation of human embryonic stem cells
- 1999 First laboratory-grown organ: an artificial bladder
- 2004 Implantation of first engineered tubular organs – urine conduits
- 2007 Discovery of stem cells derived from amniotic fluid and placenta
- 2009 First solid organ engineered by recycling donor liver
The evolution of regenerative medicine shows just how much the field has been evolving over thousands of years. Modern-day regenerative medicine is a cumulation of the work and research of the early alchemists. The new medical techniques and technology discovered by them has made a great impact on the regenerative medicine field and are used to establish the technologies we still use today.
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