Extending Life Using Tissue and Organ Replacement
There is a critical shortage of organs available for donation to patients suffering from degenerative diseases of various organ systems. This shortage becomes more severe yearly, as the aging population grows and such diseases become more common. The fields of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering now offer hope for these aging patients with new advances in material science, cell transplantation, and bioengineering. Novel methods and materials to construct biological substitutes for diseased and injured tissues are being developed, and the goal is to restore and maintain normal function to the patient. The field of stem cell research is rapidly advancing, offering unforeseen options for treatment. For example, therapeutic cloning, where an enucleated oocyte receives a donor cell nucleus, yielding pluripotent stem cells, offers a potentially limitless source of cells for tissue engineering applications. However, recent discoveries in this field indicate that the use of non-controversial cells and tissues also has enormous potential for tissue engineering purposes. This article gives an overview of recent advances in regenerative medicine and describes their applications in tissue and organ replacement technology, as well as how these technologies offer new therapies to a person facing end-stage organ failure. There is a growing optimism that the successes in this field will achieve the goal of significantly extending the life of the patient.
Keywords: Regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, organ substitutes, cell therapy, biomaterials, organ replacement
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