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Introduction to and the future of regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine offers real solutions to patients suffering from chronic diseases. Instead of expensive therapies to relief pain and symptoms, regenerative medicine can provide the means to repair damaged tissue and organs.

How can we regenerate cells, tissues and organs?

Damaged body parts could be regenerated using:

  1. Specific cell types that act indirectly on the endogenous repair capacity of the body by promoting conditions that allow the body’s own stem cells to mediate regeneration. This is currently tested in a number of clinical trials at LUMC, mainly using mesenchymal stromal cells.
  2. Gene therapy to correct genetic defects in cells isolated from the patient followed by re-administration of these genetically modified cells.
  3. Tissue or organ-specific stem cells isolated from the patients’ tissue or the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Following isolation (and reprogramming) these cells can be further expanded ex vivo before administration to patients.
  4. Stem cells to build de novo organs and tissues on demand, for example by loading these cells on an organ scaffold.

Regenerative medicine in context

The past decade interest in regenerative medicine has exponentially grown. At the LUMC, regenerative medicine is one of three societal outreach topics as can be found in our new strategy “Translating Innovations: from science to health 2018-2022”. This fits well with the recently defined Dutch Science Agenda in which Regenerative medicine is 1 of 25 routes covering all science topics the Netherlands excels in.  

Future outlook on regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine will be transformative to people’s lives, but also to society at large, and society therefore needs to be ready to adapt. The implementation of regenerative therapies will have significant economic effects, as people stay in active work longer, and the increasing healthcare costs we face with an ageing population can be counteracted. Eventually, this will lead to changes in the healthcare system, with less of a patient’s time spent in hospitals. Indeed, the very function of hospitals will change. Instead of managing people’s conditions, they will deliver an increasingly specialised range of curative and preventative therapies, using a patient’s own cells, gene editing, and tissue engineering.

These innovative treatments will force us to explore new regulatory and reimbursement models. The role of pharma and biotech industries will also change in unpredictable ways. From the design of clinical trials, to the business model for drug development, from the patient experience, to that of the healthcare professional. The old models will become obsolete and new ones will emerge.

All of this will also allow for huge economic growth, with the scientists and professionals trained in our knowledge institutes building the economy of tomorrow. The LUMC is proud to be training the next generations of researchers, clinicians, and entrepreneurs, and building the infrastructure and ecosystem required, to make all of these developments possible.