Perhaps most exciting about regenerative medicine, is its potential to completely change how we approach organ donation. Here’s a simple breakdown of regenerative therapies:

1. Cell-based therapies

Living cells are delivered to damaged or diseased tissue or organs, ultimately restoring their function.

FDA-approved Provenge is a cell-based immunotherapy for the treatment of late-stage prostate cancer: one in which cells are removed, treated and then returned to that same patient.

2. Gene therapy

Inserting functioning genes into a patient’s cells to correct or improve defective or mutated genes.

Sangamo Biosciences’ zinc finger technology has been shown to modify a protein on the surface of cells that HIV uses to infect the immune system.

3. Biologics and small molecules

The use of chemicals and cellular components to regain function in aging or damaged cells.

iPierian discovered biologic and small molecule drug candidates to treat neurodegenerative diseases after identifying antibodies in their disease models.

4. Tissue engineering

Synthetic and bio-based materials are implanted in the body to help restore, reconstruct or maintain tissue or organ function.

In 2008, the first tissue-engineered windpipe, using the patient’s own stem cells, was successfully transplanted into a young woman in Barcelona.

5. Drug discovery and toxicity testing

Stem cells are implemented to study the effects of drugs on different cells and tissues, such as the heart, liver and brain cells.

Together, Organovo and ZenBio, Inc. will produce 3-D human tissue models in an effort to advance drug discovery and development.

6. Cellular reprogramming and disease modeling

A technique that turns one type of cell into another, allowing researchers to study disease progression and development.

In 1958 Dr. John Gurdon cloned a frog using the cells of a tadpole, proving that cells could be reprogrammed into an embryonic state.

7. Biobanking

Storing biological samples including cord blood and birth tissue, skin, bone, saliva or plasma for medical research.

AlloSource provides more than 200 types of bone, skin and soft tissue allografts, including tendons, ligaments and joints.

As research continues, the possibilities of advancing these therapies expand. “We anticipate the widespread engineering of replacement tissues—the creation of transplantable bone or vascular grafts, for example,” the Alliance of Regenerative Medicine declares. “In time, we can foresee the development of universal donor tissue, the manufacturing of functional and engraftable cells, tissues and organs, available to any patient without risk of rejection. The potential of regenerative medicine and its impact on transplantation is boundless.