Regenerative medicine is the process of creating functional cell, tissue, and organ substitutes.
This is necessary to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to age, disease, damage, or birth defects. This field holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by stimulating tissue-specific stem cells to repair the damage. Stem cells are very rare cells that can divide and make exact copies of themselves. They can also divide to form cells that can develop into different cell types, such as blood, heart, lung, or brain cells. This is how the process of regeneration occurs. If there are no stem cells, regeneration does not take place. There are many different types of stem cells, each having different abilities to treat a disease. Regenerative medicine uses the power of these stem cells to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory, and to safely implant them when the body cannot heal itself. This exciting field has the potential to solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, compared to the number of patients that require life-saving organ transplantation.
Researchers at the Institute are studying the basic biology of stem cells, as well as ways they can be used for tissue regeneration. Current projects include working with stem cells that can develop into specialized blood, muscle, or brain cells, as well as a type of stem cell that can develop into many different tissues. Our scientists are also working to identify factors that improve the survival of stem cells, and that increase their ability to move around the body to the sites of damaged tissues.
Stem cell transplantation has enormous potential to regenerate diseased tissue. For some diseases, stem cells are already in clinical use and clinical trials for many other diseases are under way.
Principal Investigators are working on the following challenges in the area of Regenerative Medicine:
- Understanding how stem cells are regulated by the local environment in the bone marrow and other organs.
- Developing and testing a device that models the blood circulation, to study how stem cells move towards and into damaged tissues.
- Determining how stem cells contribute to healing by dampening inflammatory responses.
- Discovering factors that protect stem cells from injury as they move to sites of tissue damage.
Dr. Ingrid Schraufstatter is investigating factors that stimulate mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and other stem cells. These factors include growth factors, and the fragments of blood complement proteins C3a and C5a. Her group is studying ways to augment the therapeutic efficacy of MSC by enhancing their ability to survive, and their capacity to migrate to damaged tissues.