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Mississauga Life Early Spring 2015 : Page 37

in humans, given that the technique could potentially open the door to autoimmune malfunctions, in which the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy tissues. Such possible side effects need to be studied in more detail, but for now, the landmark research is greatly encouraging. Given their success in regenerating the mouse’s thymus, scientists are hopeful that gene therapy could be applied to other key organs, such as the heart and the brain, to restore them to younger levels. How Noses Can Fix Knees Another regenerative medicine breakthrough that’s poised to go mainstream applies a new approach to treating serious knee injuries. Researchers working with goats discovered that implanted nasal tissue worked wonders in helping the animals regenerate damaged knee cartilage. In fact, the treatment was so successful that it has already been applied to a small number of human patients, with extremely encouraging results. Preliminary findings of the human surgical trials were published in the August 2014 issue of Science Translational Medicine . Cartilage loss is one of the major causes of knee degeneration, and scientists have long known that chondrocytes, a type of building block cell that makes cartilage, were capable of reversing this type of damage. However, researchers have struggled for years to achieve consistent results in the use of chondrocytes to build new knee cartilage, until a new hypothesis was tested. This hypothesis surmised that nasal tissue might offer a solution, since it contains hyaline cartilage, a unique type of gristle found on bone endings. Researchers theorized that starting the regenerative process using hyaline cartilage might yield more stable and predictable results. They were right. This discovery could change the prognosis for millions of people, who would otherwise require artificial knees. While only nine human patients have thus far been treated with the technique and the long-term results are not yet clear, this advance holds major promise for the development of revolutionary new treatments for a wide range of bone and joint conditions, including osteoarthritis. What’s Next for Regenerative Medicine? While regenerative medicine is still in its relative infancy, the field is gaining momentum as researchers chalk up breakthrough after breakthrough. Scientists are now looking to pluripotent cells as a possible avenue to a much broader range of potential applications. Pluripotent cells are unique in their ability to grow into just about any other type of cell found in the human body. Doctors have been able to regress regular cells into pluripotent cells in laboratories for about a decade, but the actual mechanisms behind these transformations are not yet clear. Once researchers succeed in unlocking the mysteries of pluripotent cells, a proverbial Pandora’s box of breakthroughs could follow. Limbs, joints, bones, appendages, eyes, skin, and hair could all be replaced as they age. Previously incurable organ injuries and degeneration could become a thing of the past, as pluripotent cells might one day be used to effectively grow new organs in controlled conditions using the patient’s own tissues, eliminating any possibility of the body rejecting the transplant. Optimists hold that this research could be the beginning of the end for progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s and major killers like heart disease. For now, though, regenerative medicine is still transitioning from the stuff of science fiction into a major player in the brave new world of the health sciences. TRANSFORM YOUR BODY The non-surgical body contouring treatment that FREEZES AWAY STUBBORN FAT Transform your body without surgery or downtime. Port Credit 905.823.0772 Erin Mills Town Centre 905.402.2405 | EIGHT LOCATIONS IN GREATER TORONTO AREA TO HELP SERVE YOU BETTER

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