The History of Regenerative Medicine | The Early Days

July 25, 2020

The history of regenerative medicine extends to the days before modern pharmaceuticals and scientific processes. Cultures around the world had prototypical regenerative medicine wound healing procedures and some even pioneered skin graft procedures.

At the time of some of these innovations, the science behind them was not well understood. Naturally, the invention of the microscope and research into human biology led modern science to do things more cleanly and accurately, reducing the risks of infection and other problems during recovery.

However, even as modern technology has improved, regenerating and restoring damaged tissues has been a huge challenge. Modern pharmaceuticals are making progress, but the core powers of the human immune system and stem cells are still not fully understood.

The scientific community must now work to safely develop regenerative medicine that can address everything from war wounds and amputations to damage caused by immune system conditions.

Ancient Wound Healing

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We’ll start our telling of the history of regenerative medicine with ancient wound healing. As early as the third century BC, the Greeks used wine or vinegar to clean out wounds to allow them to heal better. Early Indian doctors had multiple techniques for wound suturing and understood how to use plants for treating wounds.¹

Traditional Chinese medicine understood that healing from wounds involves multiple organ systems and the need for rest and recuperation.1 Inflammation was first noted by the Roman doctor Celsus, but the nuances of healing processes and potential infections were still not understood.²

Unfortunately, this gap in understanding persisted through the American Civil War, when some 17,000 troops died specifically from infected wounds, as amputations and other wounds were challenging to keep clean and allow to heal.¹ Although the development of antibiotics helped more people survive, they did not address the underlying question of promoting healing and the regeneration of skin and tissue.

Artificial Tissue

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The 1930s saw the creation of the artificial perfusion pump, important in the development of the artificial heart. The artificial heart didn’t attempt to cure heart diseases by promoting tissue regeneration. Instead, it was used to buy time for patients to receive heart transplants.3

This likely marked the beginning of the history of tissue engineering, a subset of regenerative medicine that combines natural and artificial materials with cells in an attempt to recreate functional organs or tissues.

The future of regenerative medicine will probably see the replacement of artificial tissue with natural alternatives. Already, amniotic membrane allografts are being used to stimulate the production of natural human cells to promote quicker wound healing.

Cell Therapies

Although the first attempts at cell therapy can be traced back to the nineteenth century, they did not make significant gains until Paul Niehans experimented with the idea in 1931.⁴ Cell therapy has primarily been explored for its healing potential in internal organs and skin grafts. Although some forms of it have had challenges pertaining to rejection and inflammatory responses in patients, it still had numerous successes over time.³

Recombinant DNA technologies emerged in the early 1970s and their potential quickly gathered interest from the scientific community. In the last 50 years, these technologies have become better and faster, allowing them to be used to treat cancer and genetic diseases, with potential uses in regenerative medicine as well.

Modern Development and Potential

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Small steps forward began to emerge throughout the 1970s and 1980s. One such step occurred in 1974 when the Journal of Pediatric Medicine published a groundbreaking paper on the regrowth of fingertips in children who had suffered amputations.⁵ Next came the discovery of the first stem cells in 1978. Going forward, mesenchymal stem cells and other stem cells could play a role in healing and regrowth.

Despite these events, the term “regenerative medicine” wasn’t used until 1992 when Dr. Leland Kaiser included it in a health futurism paper.⁶ With research into the possibilities of the human body and stem cell therapies ongoing, we are likely still in the early days of regenerative medicine research. It is very likely that we will make huge leaps in the coming years, especially with improvements in artificial intelligence that make it easier for scientists to develop drugs quickly.

Scientists began growing human embryonic stem cells in laboratory settings in 1992 to conduct research. The leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures were donated to science to derive embryonic stem cells. Stem cells can also be harvested from human bone marrow and injected into other areas of the body with cell transplantation techniques. This is currently used to treat arthritis and tendon injuries.

Regenerative Medicine as We Know It

Although the first use of the term, “regenerative medicine,” occurred in 1992, many people believe the modern use of the word was coined in 1999 by William Hassletine to describe the modern medical attempt to fix ailments from the inside out.

The benefits of regenerative medicine over traditional attempts to heal wounds account for the interest this new medical field has garnered. Rather than attempting to quell infections with antibiotics or suppress your body’s natural immune response, regenerative medicine works with your body’s natural biological processes to promote healing.

There are various types of regenerative medicine therapies available on the market today. BioStem Technologies can support your regenerative therapy with amniotic membrane and umbilical cord tissue-based products. These products promote healing with the help of growth factors and extracellular matrix components found in perinatal tissues.

Implement Regenerative Medicine into Your Practice

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BioStem Technologies works with medical professionals and wound care specialists to promote healing with the latest in regenerative medicine technology. Our ethical medical solutions are designed to promote safe and effective healing and we adhere to the FDA regulations for Good Tissue Practices.

If you are a physician looking to learn more about this promising new field of medicine, contact us today for more information and to learn how BioStem Technologies can assist you. We’ll get back to you with the information you need in one business day.

1. Bhattacharya S. Wound healing through the ages. Indian J Plast Surg. 2012;45(2):177-179. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.101255

2. Sampogna G, Guraya SY, Forgione A. Regenerative medicine: Historical roots and potential strategies in modern medicine. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure. 2015;3(3):101-107. doi:10.1016/j.jmau.2015.05.002

3. Khan, Sanna, and Waqas Jehangir. “Evolution of Artificial Hearts: An Overview and History.” Cardiology research vol. 5,5 (2014): 121-125. doi:10.14740/cr354w

4. Timeline: Development of Cell Therapy. RegMedNet

5. Illingworth CM. Trapped fingers and amputated finger tips in children. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 1974;9(6):853-858. doi:10.1016/s0022-3468(74)80220-4

6. Kaiser LR. The future of multihospital systems. Top Health Care Financ. 1992;18(4):32-45.

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