Timelines for Manipulating and Greatly Enhancing Human Regeneration

The convergence of funding and estimated timelines in science is a fascinating process to watch; as a general rule, timelines only start to appear once funding is assured. In other words, when the research and cultural environment is supportive and the field of science in question is well underway. By all accounts, widely available medical technology in ten to fifteen years time will be a quite different beast from that of today:

We have identified a very large number of genes that are involved in the regenerative process and probably just as important, a large number of genes that are involved in the inhibition of regeneration," says Stocum.

Once they find out what allows salamanders to regenerate and what keeps us from being able to, they hope to create a pill or bandage that would spur regeneration in humans.

"Call me Pollyanna but I think yes it is going to happen," says Stocum.

Dr. Stocum realizes it's a lofty goal and one that is still years away.

"Let's put it on a scale of one to ten. We're probably at a three about this point. It's going to take another 10-15 years to accomplish what we want to accomplish."

On the same timescale (and most certainly with or without the government, whatever its employees might think of their own importance) we'll see a newly mature stem cell medicine and tissue engineering of replacement organs.

Within 20 years regenerative medicine will be the standard of care for replacing all tissue/organ systems in the body in addition to extensive industrial use for pharmaceutical testing. The ultimate goal at the end of 20 years is to have real time mass customization of tissues on demand, in vivo. During those 20 years, as our knowledge of tissues grows, it is reasonable to expect to see treatments discovered along the way, roughly at the 5, 10 and 20 year marks. In 5 years the following milestones are hoped for:

  • Develop multiple applications for skin, cartilage, bone, blood vessel, and some urological products
  • Solve cell sourcing issues, giving researchers access to the materials they need to design new therapies
  • Establish cost-effective means of production, paving the way for future products
  • Establish specialized cell banks for tissue storage, allowing storage of viable "off the shelf" products

    In 10 years, effective regenerative medicine therapies will be available for patient care and industrial research and development purposes. At this time, the following may be achieved:

  • Further understand stem cell and progenitor cell biology
  • Engineer smart degradable biocompatible scaffolding
  • Develop microfabrication and nanofabrication technologies to produce tissues with their own complete vascular circulation
  • Develop complex organ patches, that could repair damaged pieces of the heart or other organs

    Ultimately, within 20 years the full benefits of regenerative medicine therapies will be reached. Some of the applications of regenerative medicine could be:

  • Harness regenerative medicine materials to produce in situ regeneration of diseased and damaged structures in many areas of the body
  • Regenerate most damaged tissues and organs either in vivo or through implanted regeneration therapies
  • Produce in vitro sophisticated 3-D tissues and organs that cannot be regenerated through in vivo techniques, such as an entire heart or lung
  • The more aggressive and optimistic researchers are aiming for first results in a couple of years, while a decade is the more mainstream estimate. We live in interesting times, to see researchers competing to better repair our aging bodies.

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    Well, all nice n stuff... the question is... how much time will it buy us... i fear rejuvenation of any extent is quite a bit further away. Granted i'm inclined and partial to the Kurzweilian view but some realistic pessimism is a good strategy for one's personal wellfare. I would love to see that the reliability theory of aging is correct to some extend which could translate into decent life extension through efficient regenerative medicine of say 10 years. Might be enough to "make it"... let's keep our fingers crossed.

    Posted by: Curious at August 4th, 2006 12:50 PM

    i am overwhelmed by what i am reading. if you say you will be able to cure basically anything in the entire human body, will the cure for cancer be found? i really hope we get it before its too late!

    Posted by: Lucy Powell at March 2nd, 2008 12:55 PM

    i was wondering if biotechnology could be used to grow fur and leather for clothing, furniture, etc. and if this would be a smart first step to build interest and confidence in biotechnology so that it could be used sooner for creating food and for healing humans.

    Posted by: Don Karam at June 23rd, 2008 5:58 AM
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