KEVIN XU, MEBO INTERNATIONAL JUL. 19, 2013, 2:19 PM
Nationwide, America’s health systems are moving forward with new strategies to care for burn patients who hope to be restored after injury. Undoubtedly, these patients receive quality care, but there is a new therapy at our fingertips that can fundamentally change burn treatment delivery.
It’s called regeneration – an ability you likely assign to certain sea creatures or reptiles. But it’s also possible for mammals, including humans. Within us all lays the potential for self-regeneration when we have the proper methodologies. We must carefully define regeneration, though. It’s tempting to lump it with the concepts of stem cell research or simple regrowth. These ideas aren’t the same.
Here, I discuss the characteristics you need to know to correctly identify regeneration.
First, regeneration is an inherently physiological process that maintains tissue and organs. The human body is constantly growing and replenishing. For example, every minute, you produce between 30,000 and 40,000 new skin cells. That’s rapid, but cancerous cells notoriously reproduce far faster than healthy cells. Consequently, it’s important to differentiate between physiological development and pathological growth. Regeneration returns severely-damaged tissues and organs to previous physiological states of health and function.
We have a natural cell reserve within our bodies that gently regenerates damaged organs and new, healthy cells to replace problematic ones. When the process is complete, the new organ should be indistinguishable from the lost or damaged one. It’s an in situ ability we carry from birth, and with the right cellular nutrient mixture and environment, we can harness it.
In this vein, regeneration goes farther than merely using traditional healing to treat and restore damaged body parts. Healing or pathological repair can leave scars, limited functionality, and decreased skin elasticity. It can also require high-priced transplanted tissues or organ grafts that can lead to irreversible pain and potential immunity rejections.
Conversely, pathological growth is dangerous and surprising. Cancerous tumors likely jump to mind when we think of pathological developments. However, anti-natural stem cell therapies can sometimes go awry, ending with malignancies that threaten health rather than support it. Pathological is antithetical to the human body’s natural physiological process. Pathological beginnings always lead to pathological endings.
In these situations, humans’ anti-natural intervention is often the culprit. Human nature pulls us to manipulate our surroundings, but that’s the opposite of what we should do. Because our regenerative potential is congenital, our bodies instinctively know what to do when damaged. We, as humans, should assist our natural will – not alter it.
Consequently, regeneration resembles a second round of embryonic development. Cells divide, forming the body’s tissues and constructing organs, laying the framework for all biological function. Regeneration retraces those steps. At completion, damaged tissues or organs have been completely restored to their full functional and structural state just as if they’d gone through another body development.
Remember, while some consider this process to be regrowth or cellular growth, simple regrowth doesn’t equal regeneration. Regeneration only produces new, healthy tissue & organ. Regrowth can be healthy, but it can also indicate the recurrence of an uncontrolled growth. The key difference between regrowth and regeneration is the controlled outcome of the process. It is through a continuous-controlled mechanism to prevent excessive growth and abnormal structural formation that the ultimate goal of full restoration is achieved.
Not all regeneration forms are alike, though. The end goal is the same – the creation of identical tissue and organs – but, the process differs for invertebrates and mammals.
Biology teachings have long outlined the ability of various invertebrate beings, such as starfish, sea sponges, and plants, to self-regenerate when wounded. This process depends on totipotent cells – remnants of the fertilized egg and the division of the first four cells – that remain in the body. Invertebrates morph totipotent cells into any adult cell type they need.
The scientific community has mostly believed mammals can regenerate some skin, a good portion of the liver, and small bits of fingers and toes. Unlike invertebrates, mammals can’t replicate the whole body, lacking significant amounts of totipotent cells. Instead, mammals can activate and use a population of potential regenerative cells – differentiated, ordinary somatic cells within tissue or organs – to regenerate organs.
There is also a difference between regenerative medicine and regenerative science. Through regenerative medicine – tissue engineering and cell therapy applied to aid the organ regeneration process – scientists attempt to grow and regenerate tissues and organs in laboratories, aiming for future, safe implantation. The defining characteristic here is these methods don’t regenerate organs. Rather, they attempt to help the regeneration process by providing a structural scaffold. Regenerative medicine is an instrumental system that assists the regeneration process instead of regenerating damaged organs. Therapeutic adult and embryonic stem cell paths are the most well-known examples of regenerative medicine cell therapy categories that require cell transplants.
On the other hand, regenerative science is the key to activating our potential ability to regenerate damaged organs in the same way invertebrates perform in situ self-organ regeneration. This unique path differentiates itself from regenerative medicine because regenerative science directly regenerates organ.
Regeneration is a replication of the body’s original development process. Most significantly, regeneration only should occur in vivo – with the whole body – and in situ – within it.
Although regeneration is a process through which the body restores itself, the widespread ability to foster regeneration can only be deemed the ultimate outcome of all authentic stem cell work. If we foster more work to perfect our knowledge of self-regeneration, we could eventually remove some patient care needs from the clinical environment. Not only would this lighten the workloads doctors carry, but it would also create more room in the health system for people who have more complicated problems. The adaptation of self-organ regenerative methodologies by healthcare systems will revolutionize the traditional medical delivery model, launching a new regenerative science field different from regenerative medicine.