What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a cutting-edge medical discipline which seeks to heal damaged tissues in the body by amplifying natural healing abilities and stimulating rapid cell regrowth. Utilizing ground-breaking therapies including cellular and gene therapies, as well as stem-cell and bone marrow transplants (1), regenerative medicine is actively transforming medicine and changing the future of healthcare. Regenerative medicine is poised to offer “unparalleled patient-specific diagnostic algorithms and reconstructive treatments for a range of diseases and disabilities” (2). According to a recent article published by members of the Reconstructive Surgery & Regenerative Medicine Group, regenerative medicine therapies are “shifting the paradigm in healthcare from symptomatic treatment in the 20th century to curative treatment in the 21st century,” revolutionizing medicine with the goal of one day ending palliative care in favor of curative care (3). Regenerative medicine is at the forefront of helping hundreds of millions of people and is the next step in curing previously incurable diseases, most notably many chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) which plague developing nations with aging populations (4).
Chronic Diseases in Developing Nations
As some developing nations reconcile with their previous weak attempts at urbanization and government stability, they have experienced what some experts call a “rapid epidemiological transition” as knowledge of how disease spreads propagates, and greater accessibility to clean food and water has led to a decrease in infectious diseases (cholera, pneumonia, etc). In lieu of infectious diseases, chronic diseases have now begun wreaking havoc on these populations (5). Eighty percent of worldwide chronic disease deaths come from developing nations. Furthermore, these diseases are affecting more young people in these nations than in Western countries. Developing nations, which often are already struggling to provide their citizens with basic health services, are being overwhelmed by the ever-growing rates of noncommunicable (chronic) diseases amongst their population (4). Cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death globally, accounts for thirty percent of all deaths in developing nations and affects younger people at a higher rate than in Western countries. Moreover, cancer accounts for ten percent of deaths in these countries and chronic respiratory disease accounts for almost five percent; these numbers have only been increasing in recent years (5).
Access to Regenerative Medicine in Developing Nations
Regenerative medicine could offer the solution to combat the growing epidemic of chronic diseases as more research shows various regenerative therapies being effective in combating a range of chronic diseases (3). However, developing countries have been largely excluded from benefiting from advancements in regenerative medicine. According to the journal “Regenerative Medicine and the Developing World” published in the Public Library of Science, “...there has been no attempt to systematically understand how regenerative medicine could contribute to improving health in developing countries” (4).Many developing nations, most of which struggle to provide citizens with basic health care, do not have the infrastructure to support the necessary equipment to implement many regenerative therapies in their countries. Cellular therapies, which are used to treat a host of chronic diseases, often require full, state-of-the-art labs to grow stem cells. The same goes for the production of medical devices and artificial organs which makes supporting regenerative medicine in developing nations extremely difficult (1). However, by sharing regenerative medicine and exporting specific targeted regenerative therapies which developing nations have the infrastructure to support, the effect of major chronic diseases on the global population can be largely diminished. Therapies which treat diabetes through islet-cell regeneration and which treat cardiovascular disease through the regeneration of autologous cells, would have a significant impact on the chronic disease epidemic in developing nations (4).
Regenerative Medicine’s Potential Impact on the Chronic Disease Epidemic
As chronic diseases affecting younger populations in developing nations continue to persist, regenerative medicine appears to be the most effective solution for minimizing the human cost of this growing epidemic (5). By encouraging governments of developing nation’s to allocate some of their funding towards developing or importing regenerative medicine therapies and utilizing humanitarian and non-profits to bring regenerative therapies to these nations, these treatments can be accessed by the regions of the world with the largest necessity and demand for them. By spreading regenerative medicine to developing nations, the effects of the chronic disease epidemic will be minimized and the impact chronic diseases have on these nations will be greatly reduced (4).
- “What Is Regenerative Medicine?” Regenerative Medicine at the McGowan Institute. University of Pittsburgh, September 14, 2016. https://mirm-pitt.net/about-us/what-is-regenerative-medicine/.
- Terzic, Andre, Clifford D. Folmes, Almudena Martinez-Fernandez, and Atta Behfar.“Regenerative Medicine: On the Vanguard of Health Care.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 86, no. 7 (July 2011): 600–602. https://doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2011.0325.
- Jessop, Zita M., Ayesha Al-Sabah, Wendy R. Francis, and Iain S. Whitaker. “Transforming Healthcare Through Regenerative Medicine.” BMC Medicine 14, no. 1 (August 10, 2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0669-4.
- Greenwood, Heather L, Peter A Singer, Gregory P Downey, Douglas K Martin, Halla Thorsteinsdóttir, and Abdallah S Daar. “Regenerative Medicine and the Developing World.” PLoS Medicine 3, no. 9 (September 12, 2006). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030381.
- Worley, Heidi. “Chronic Diseases Beleaguer Developing Countries.” PRB, January 1, 2006. https://www.prb.org/resources/chronic-diseases-beleaguer-developing-countries/.