The long and painful recovery following an injury could become a thing of the past, if recent research into regenerative medicine comes to pass. Regenerative medicine is increasingly relying on stem cells for a range of therapies to treat ligament, tendon and skeletal injuries that affect sports players and non-athletes alike. Because of its unique pain alleviation methods, regenerative medicine is expected to mature into a US$24.7 billion market by 2017.
Regeneration has been around since 1981, but has gotten more attention as a number of organizations have funneled money into the research. Experts say the field, which combines cell biology, traditional medicine and physics, holds promise for treating numerous ailments.
Advances in the field of regenerative medicine is speeding up the process of healing, so people can get back on the field, the court or the road quicker and stronger. With broken bones being one of the most frequent of athletic injuries, orthopedics is another promising subset of the regenerative field.
The buzz surrounding regenerative medicine belies the controversy stem cell-based medicine has generated for at least the last decade. The use of human cells often sparks furious ethical and religious debates. In recent years, passions have cooled in the wake of scientific breakthroughs that ushered in the increased use of adult—rather than embryonic—stem cells.
In spite of the controversy, scientists insist the research is key to fueling developments in regenerative medicine. Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. The can also be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Regenerative medicine has been aided by the equally rapid advances in technology, such as three-dimensional (3D) printing. Researchers are gaining ground in generating artificial organs through sophisticated 3D-printers. Experts believe that within this decade we could see even more advances in organ engineering.