Monday, February 08, 2010

Science Of Regenerating Tissues And Organs Advancing

We are reading more and more stories about advances in regenerative medicine that are gradually finding ways to replace damaged tissues and organs.

I recently attended a presentation by Dr. Shaf Keshavjee on how he and his team of scientists at the McEwan Centre for Regenerative Medicine used gene therapy to repair injured human donor lungs with a technique that has the potential to make use of donor lungs that are currently discarded. This is a huge advance that could double the number of donor lungs available for transplant and get patients off waiting lists for their life-saving transplant. For more about this click here.

From Before it's news

By Gabrielle Kirk |
It may sound like science fiction to many, but the science of regenerating tissues and organs is a reality.

Regenerative medicine is happening now and improving the lives of service members and veterans, said Army Col. (Dr.) Robert Vandre of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).

“Regenerative medicine will change the way we practice medicine in the future,” Vandre said during a session at the 2010 Military Health System Conference Jan 27.

While researchers cannot yet regenerate limbs, the biomaterials engineered so far can help injured service members heal and recover by forming new bone, skin, nerves, tendons, muscles, and blood vessels to replace damaged tissues and organs.

Vandre explained that although organ transplants have been occurring for more than 50 years, people can die waiting for an organ match and there is always the possibility of organ rejection after a transplant.

“Regenerative medicine is the way to solve that problem,” said Vandre. Along with new techniques that reduce rejection and a patient’s dependence on anti-rejection drugs, scientists can now create or repair organs using a patient’s cells and a biodegradable material called scaffolds that create the organ’s shape.

Another area where regenerative medicine could make a difference is in preventing limb amputation. If muscle or nerves are destroyed, but a limb is still intact, many patients will first choose surgeries and therapies and then often decide to amputate years after the injury because of pain or limitations, said Vandre. “If you can grow the muscle back, then you wouldn’t have to amputate.”

With more than $250 million in funding for the next five years, AFIRM is made up of two civilian research consortia working with the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. One consortium is led by Rutgers University and the Cleveland Clinic and the other is led by Wake Forest University and the University of Pittsburgh.

In 2009 a hand transplant for a Marine that took place at the University of Pittsburgh utilized a new technique of implanting some of the donor’s bone marrow cells into the recipient to decrease the likelihood of rejection. Speaking to the success of the procedure, Vandre said, “Now he is an apprentice electrician, and he could never be an electrician with one hand.”

AFIRM’s top areas of emphasis are facial reconstruction, scar-free healing, salvage, and reconstruction of limbs and digits, burn repair, and muscle repair.

Vandre encouraged military doctors in the audience to consider their patients for clinical trials in 2010, which include hand transplants, face transplants, burn treatments, scar revision, and skin grafts. Information on how to apply for any of these clinical trials is available at

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Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here

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Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

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