Tissue regeneration is a revolutionary medical approach based on the idea that living tissue can be used to stimulate the natural healing process of the body. On its own, the body can repair and regenerate itself, as seen in the natural healing of wounds, burns and broken bones. Other vertebrates also have this ability, notably certain reptiles that can even regrow amputated limbs. In tissue regeneration, the natural ability of the body to repair and heal is encouraged, mainly by introducing engineered living cells into a diseased or damaged part of the body.
This form of medical healing is also called regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. It is an approach that applies the principles of medicine, biology and engineering. Tissue regeneration is used chiefly to accelerate the healing process, and to promote the healing of diseased tissues and organs that will not heal or mend on their own. Regenerative medicine is especially helpful in healing broken bones, chronic wounds and deep burns, but it also has been shown to help repair damaged nerves and structures of the heart.
Tissue regeneration consists of three main components, which include living cells, the matrix that supports them, and cell communicators. The matrix is the medium within which the living cells thrive, and the cell communicators are the communication or signalling mechanism that stimulates the cells. All three work together to promote regeneration of the living cells and their immediate environment. This results in the growth of new tissues to replace the old, damaged ones.
The living cells used in tissue regeneration are usually the same type of cells found in the diseased tissue or injured organs. The cells can come from the person himself, in which case they are called autologous cells. They can also come from another person, which are called allogeneic cells. It is generally better to use autologous living cells because they are not rejected by the patient’s body. Allogeneic cells don’t always work because the patient’s immune system rejects the foreign cells.
The living cells are artificially multiplied in cell banks, many millions of times over. When they are ready, they are pieced together to form a medicinal construct that is then integrated into the diseased tissues in the patient’s body. Then the construct is left alone to stimulate the natural healing process and hopefully restore the patient to good health. Continuing research and experimentation in tissue regeneration is underway. Doctors and scientists are confident that they will discover even more medical applications for tissue engineering.