About Regenerative Medicine
     
Regenerative medicine is an emerging field focusing on repairing, replacing and restoring damaged tissues or organs. Regenerating a tissue implies involving broad interrelated innovative medical therapies using stem cells, tissue engineering, organ transplantation, genetics, cloning, and immunotherapy.  

In the 20th century, treatment was mainly based on curing patients without regenerating the damaged organ. The only means for returning the normal functions of a damaged organ were by replacing it with a donated one, or by repairing the damage mechanically. These methods are considered expensive and form a burden on society.

Currently, the only effective cure for damaged organs is transplantation. Mechanical devices can restore the lost function of a damaged organ but cannot regenerate the damaged part. For this reason, it was more suitable to categorize mechanical and electronic devices in a separate entity called bionic medicine. 

The scarcity of organ donors and the difficulties faced with incompatible transplants were reasons enough to find alternative methods to cure patients. Despite the fact that, to date, stem cells can only be used in bone marrow transplantation and skin burns, the field of regenerative medicine holds great promise in the coming 5-10 years.

Stem cells are derived from several sources. Adult stem cells can be found in specific tissues as skin stem cells, cardiac stem cells and liver stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells, that produce blood cells, can be found in the blood, bone marrow or cord blood. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the inner cell mass of blastocysts. They are more malleable than adult stem cells, but a lot of ethical controversy surrounds them. Lately, the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), produced by reprogramming adult non-pluripotent cells, have properties similar to embryonic stem cells and they are commonly used in studies due to their plasticity. 

The enthusiasm accompanied with scientific discoveries may lead to hype, or exaggerated publicity with unrealistic expectations. Stem cell tourism has become a common term in several countries, where financial gains are the main player behind the scenes. Patients seek medical therapies in foreign countries, where laws governing stem cell research and treatment are non-existent. The lag between scientific discoveries and their clinical applications has paved the way for many unethical clinical trials on humans and the selling of false hopes for desparate patients.

Governments and law makers, especially in developing countries, must be aware of the dangers of uncontrolled clinical trials and the impact of stem cell tourism on the public. Strict rules and continuous monitoring of both private and public research institutes  must be applied to prevent any malpractice in the name of science.  
 
Link 1: International Stem Cell Forum
 
Link 2: EuroStemCell (Europe stem cell hub) [Information on the latest science, educational resources and more]
 
Link3: Tissue engineering
 
Link 4: What are stem cells?
 

Link to EuroStemCell
Link to Cairo University