(Expansion) – Given the lack of organs to meet the transplant waiting lists around the world, the creation of functional tissues and organs in the laboratory is the next step to treat the tremendous consequences that chronic-degenerative diseases such as obesity , diabetes, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have in the world population.
Regenerative medicine is the branch of health sciences that is responsible for developing methods and techniques for the creation, repair and replacement of damaged cells, dysfunctional organs or tissues. The concepts of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering are commonly interchangeable, since developments in both branches are used jointly in experimental models of tissue and organ creation in laboratories worldwide.
Today it is an industry that has a market size of 10.8 billion dollars in the different branches that range from ” bioprinting “, additive manufacturing and design of tissues now validated by the FDA to replace skin and cartilage.
The development of a tissue or organ designed in the laboratory essentially has two components: 1. A matrix or biostructure that generates the proper environment of molecules, nutrients and development factors so that the cells can “ hom ”, that is, feel like at home, successfully implant, develop and grow to later carry out its specific functions. 2. A group of cells that have the characteristics of pluripotentiality, that is, an inherent capacity to differentiate into the tissue that we wish to correct or treat; these are the famous stem cells better known as stem cells.
3D bioprinting and bioinks with specific biological characteristics are today designed and put into practice to place on them stem cells that have been induced in the laboratory to differentiate, for example, into neuronal cells, blood vessels or functional liver cells. There are already experimental models where specific activities of healthy tissues have been replicated.
The expectation is that in no more than a decade, cardiac tissue implants can be used in infarcted areas, neuronal cell implants or injections in spinal cord injuries, or cells specialized in color detection for people with blindness due to macular degeneration.
We want to raise an alert note, however, due to the risk of fraudulent use of these concepts, since given the high expectation that has been generated by the potential benefit for patients, groups have developed companies that without having the appropriate scientific processes or compliance with the corresponding regulatory aspects, today they move millions of dollars in “regenerative medicine” clinics, use of “stem cell” injections for the treatment of diseases and other “therapeutic alternatives” full of marketing creativity but without being supported by clinical studies formal.
For now, the approved usefulness in the use of stem cells is validated in bone marrow transplantation for hematological and immunological diseases and the only tissues approved by the FDA for implantation and that are commercially available are skin and cartilage for highly specialized centers.
So be careful! Any other application must be offered within the framework of a valid scientific study protocol approved by the authorities and led by professionals and recognized health institutions.
what the doctor meant
Thanks to bioengineering, organ design and tissue design, it’s exciting to think that in the future organ transplantation will be replaced by these types of technologies, because I imagine this will make it possible to replace bits of organs to repair damage and that sounds great.
However, I am still concerned that science is advancing so far without improving our lifestyle habits. I am already seeing, for example, smokers pretending to buy bits of lung or more relaxed drinkers because they can buy another liver, instead of taking seriously that of correcting habits, because despite everything we know that addictions are also considered a disease , it is no less true that we lack a lot of personal responsibility to also assume what we have to do in terms of health.
So I would love for the rest of us to stay away from tobacco, away from excessive alcohol consumption, and away from junk food as long as tissue engineering happens.
In conclusion, tissue engineering together with regenerative medicine and artificial organs will be a solution to the lack of organs for donation; however, we will never stop pointing out in this space that the definitive answer lies in changing habits that achieve a significant decrease in the incidence of chronic conditions that cause most deaths in humanity.
This column is part of the ‘The Future of Health’ serial .
Fernando Castilleja is an internist and an expert in lifestyle medicine and health innovation. Professor at the Tec de Monterrey School of Medicine for 20 years. Co-founder of NuupHealth and CEO of Genethic Services. Mentor Endeavor, McCombs Business School at UT Austin, HealthIDS and CONACYT Binational Innovation Nodes. Follow him on and/or on .
Juana Ramírez is founder, CEO and Chairwoman of Grupo SOHIN. President of the Warriors Foundation. Entrepreneur Endeavor. President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Entrepreneurs of Mexico. Author of the initiative “Medicine with M for Women”. University professor at UP and IPADE Business School. Follow her on and/or on .