Risky behaviors like smoking or drug use could increase because of these assumptions, creating greater burdens of healthcare costs and other social and medical issues. The good that these therapies lead to is thus somewhat tempered by the bad they may encourage.
Other Applications of Regenerative Therapies
Regenerative therapies do not solely consist of age-reversing and life-saving applications. An examination of some other real and imagined uses to which these therapies can be put reveals the true breadth of these therapies' power and scope in everyday life. In the field of dentistry, where artificial implants have become increasingly sophisticated and well-integrated with the natural body, "the therapeutic potential of platelets in promoting and accelerating tissue regeneration" has led to a new trajectory in oral implantology because it allows for the growth of the body's own tissue at a faster rate that incorporates more completely and more efficiently with dental implants (Fugazzotto 113). Though not an instance of pure regeneration, researchers have found methods to enhance and amplify the regenerative function of platelets to build up tissues in a way that supports dental implants.
The above describes a method whereby artificial implants are enhanced through the body's own regenerative capabilities, assisted by medical technology. In somewhat opposite applications, artificial substances have been developed that enhance natural regenerative processes in the body:
The AutoloGel System harnesses the patient's natural healing processes with the delivery of a platelet releasate gel containing growth factors, cytokines and chemokines required for cell growth and formation of new tissue. Restoring the balance in the wound environment can transform a non-healing wound to a wound that heals naturally.
Essentially, this company has produced a gel that can be placed in wounds to enhance the natural healing processes of the body, increasing the cascade of functions that take place in any wound in order to make healing occur both faster and more safely than it otherwise would.
Perhaps this sounds like the stuff of science fiction, and in fact regenerative therapies have long been a staple of some of the best and the worst examples of that genre. The movie Jason X, for example, the tenth movie in the Friday the 13th series, finds the eponymous killer aboard a spaceship in the future, where tiny robots analyze his molecular structure and rebuild him as a partial cyborg but utilizing his own tissue as a basis for the creation of new and perfectly integrated tissue. In this way Jason is almost fully regenerated, becoming just as strong and ready for action as he was before being pulverized about halfway through the movie (Isaac). This is not a real instance of regenerative therapies at work, of course, but the concept is precisely the same as many technologies that are currently in development and it is actually quite possible that similar achievements will be possible by the time humanity reaches the future period in which the film is set.
Moving from repairing heart tissue to rebuilding fictional supernatural killers might seem like a large leap, but both are examples of regenerative therapies. Through stem cells at spinal cords to platelets at the site of dental implants and countless applications in between, regenerative therapies are changing the face of medicine and the possibilities of the human body. The future is happening now, and more people will be able to stay healthier longer in order to watch it progress.
Cytomedix. Autologel System, 2009. Accessed 20 October 2010. http://www.cytomedix.com/
Fugazzotto, Paul. Implant and Regenerative Therapy in Dentistry: A Guide to Decision Making. Ames, IA: Wiley Blackwell, 2009.
Isaac, James (dir.). Jason X. New Line Cinema, 2002. Film.
Longevity Meme. Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, 2010. Accessed 20 October 2010. http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/stem_cells_and_regenerative_medicine.cfm
Magdi, Yacoub, Ken Suzuki and Nadia Rosenthal. "The Future of Regenerative Therapy in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure." Nature Reviews Cardiology 3(1), pp. 133-36.