In the United States, over 113,000 people currently await transplantation surgery. Unfortunately, the demand far outweighs supply. Even more importantly, many human tissues are not eligible for transplantation. Brain and spinal cord injuries are prime examples of scenarios where human cell regeneration would be preferred. But with recent discoveries, opportunities for companies to provide these services may possibly be available in the near future.
Recent scientific research is offering new insights into human cell regeneration and even the possibility of whole-body regeneration. Likewise, stem cell regeneration and various tissue engineering techniques are also offering hope. With this market expected to exceed a value of $100 billion in the next few years, human cell regeneration techniques are hot topics. As a result, it’s no surprise that several companies are exploring stem cell regeneration and other potential strategies.
Modern Human Cell Regeneration Techniques
Many researchers and companies are currently investigating stem cell regeneration techniques in an effort to replace damaged tissues and organs. Engineering and biological sciences have combined to constitute modern human cell regeneration approaches. These approaches include the use of biomaterials as well as 3D bioprinting. In essence, these techniques use biomaterials to create a basic skeleton or framework initially. Then, stem cells are added to develop into desired tissues around this framework. Numerous companies are pursuing these types of stem cell approaches for human cell regeneration today.
Stem cell regeneration allows the production of cells that can develop into a variety of human tissues. These are typically created from a patient’s own cell types, such as fat cells. Once these cells are manipulated in the lab, they can grow into a muscle, heart or liver, among many other organs. And since these cells are derived from the patient, the patient’s immune system won’t reject them. However, the biomaterials used for the framework are created from animal or plant materials. Thus, a person with the new muscle or organ may still require something for the suppression of his or her immune system to avoid tissue rejection.
Promising Advances in Human Cell and Stem Cell Regeneration Techniques
Recently, two important discoveries offer increasing hope and insight into human cell regeneration. Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel have been able to regenerate organs using tissues fully derived from a patient’s own cells. The scientists collected fatty tissue from the patients’ stomachs that were then used for stem cell regeneration. But instead of using plant and animal biomaterials as a scaffold, they used discarded fatty material outside the cells. As a result, the tissues regenerated are not likely to be rejected by a person’s immune system. This discovery has notable implications for better patient outcomes.
The other scientific discovery was even more impressive. Researchers at Harvard University investigated DNA material from a special type of worm. The worm is recognized for its ability to completely regenerate its entire body when severed. The researchers found that a part of the worm’s DNA that didn’t code for any specific protein had other functions. It served as a “switch” for turning on or off other parts of the DNA involving whole-body regeneration. More importantly, they found that other species—including humans—also have this same DNA switch. Determining how this switch functions in human beings is now the source of intense interest.
Human Cell Regeneration and Tissue Engineering: A Hot Area of Investigation
Given that human cell regeneration is in such high demand, many companies are investing heavily in tissue engineering. In fact, venture capitalist funding in such companies continues to advance with market growth expected to be at 35 percent annually. The following offers a look at some of these firms actively involved in human cell regeneration techniques.
- BlueRock Therapeutics – This venture was initiated by Versant Ventures and Bayer in 2016 with roughly $225 million in funding. The company uses its special cellular genetics platform to develop and manufacture cell therapies in neurology, cardiology, and immunology.
- UNITY Biotechnology – This biotechnology startup had over $210 million in funding and a valuation of $712 million before its IPO. Its focus remains on slowing the aging of cells involving vision, joint function, and cognitive abilities.
More Companies Exploring Human Cell Regeneration
- Athersys – This company provides stem cell regeneration platforms for clinical purposes using biotechnology innovations. Having been in business since 1995, the company is currently valuated at $156 million.
- MiMedx – This company specializes in human placental allografts in its efforts to facilitate human cell regeneration. The company is valuated at $307 million, having supplied thousands of allografts for orthopedics, ophthalmology, dental and other health sectors.
- Nuo Therapeutics – This $4.2 million-valuated firm is involved in human cell regeneration technologies related to wound care. By using a patient’s own blood, the company provides platelet-based therapies to help facilitate wound healing faster.
Human Cell Regeneration of Tomorrow
With science constantly evolving in the field of human cell regeneration, one can expect rapid change as well as growth. The recent discoveries noted here offer exciting opportunities for whole-body regeneration. However, many challenges are likely, and many unknowns must still be explained.
Nevertheless, though we may not be able to grow our limbs back like salamanders in the next few years, tremendous progress is being made. And several bold businesses are constantly advancing the field and providing amazing innovations.