Why I Love Regenerative Medicine

My best friend and wife, Alison, told me I should write a blog on why I love regenerative medicine.

Today what most excites me about regenerative medicine doesn’t have anything to do with orthopedics at all. It has to do with survival.

My daughter’s friend has Cystic Fibrosis, a cruel lung disease that invariably ends with the termination of an individual’s life, often at its peak.

The disease occurs because of a genetic defect on both chromosomes that codes for a cellular transmembrane regulator protein that does not work properly in these patients.

Regenerative medicine has potentially found a solution for this and other lung problems, and researchers at UNC and NCSU are hard at work trying to make this a treatment of the near future. In a study just published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, scientists generated potentially therapeutic lung stem cells from minimally invasive biopsy specimens. The study’s authors have also demonstrated successful implantation of healthy stem cells that proliferated into functional lung tissue. The most important finding came when a rat model of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic, irreversible, and ultimately fatal disease characterized by a progressive decline in lung function, was reversed.

These are promising advancements in the treatment of CF, and other lung diseases like it, that afflict tens of thousands, including those closest to us.

In addition to the human element of this disease and the potential regenerative medicine has to increase survival and prolong life, I’m also attracted to and love the science that makes this kind of thing possible.

For example, I love the mathematics of the molecular world. I love considering massive numbers like 49 quadrillion mitochondria, imagining them all somehow chemically and rhythmically connected or 39.2 trillion cells working together to maintain the biologic organism and the physical machine. That’s far more than the number of stars (100 billion) or galaxies in the observable universe (10 trillion).

Don’t misunderstand: The human skeleton and articular cartilage are my first love, when it comes to medicine and orthopedics. I love finding more efficient ways to deliver better care to more patients who want to get better and are driven to succeed. I love that there is so much yet to accomplish in the field, and that the field still remains relatively young.

Most of all, I love the opportunity to treat patients, friends and neighbors as if they were family by helping prolong their quality of life in ways that don’t require much pain or surgery.

That’s why I love regenerative medicine.

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