Recent advances in stem cells and regenerative medicine
Recent advances in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine:
There have been many recent advances in our understanding of stem cell biology, tissue regeneration and organ repair mechanisms. This is accompanied by a significant increase in the number of stem cell therapy, cell therapy and regenerative medicine studies being published. These studies range from basic studies in animal models to clinical trials. This increased potential for regenerative medicine is timely, given the increasing burden of chronic disease and disability. Although pharmaceutical approaches to chronic disease have been transformative, many diseases result in chronic organ and tissue damage that is unlikely to be solved through conventional pharmaceutical approaches. To tackle these chronic and important disabling conditions, it is likely that a new approach will be required which has been termed regenerative medicine. The broad approaches of regenerative medicine are: (i) to understand the intrinsic repair mechanisms within tissues to try and promote these to improve healthy regeneration and reduce pathological wound healing responses such as excessive scarring and (ii) develop cell therapies whereby exogenous cells can be transplanted into tissues to help repair the damaged tissue or organs. With an improved understanding of stem cell biology and tissue repair mechanisms there have also been rapid advances in the creation of artificial substrates or artificial niches for stem cells to grow upon. Stem cell niches within tissue are special environments defined by both the cellular and the extracellular environment in which stem cells reside. Stem cell niches help to tightly regulate the growth and differentiation of the stem cells into their daughter cells within tissue. In conditions of severe tissue damage, such as liver cirrhosis, the niche can become so abnormal that even transplanted cells cannot readily en-graft and grow normally. In this situation strategies to improve the niche, for example, by reducing scarring are required to improve regeneration or allow successful cell therapy. It is also likely that artificial stem cell niches will be developed where stem cells can grow upon prior to transplantation of this composite graft.