The Potential of Regenerative Medicine

If you’ve ever seen a ted talk you already know how inspirational they are. Ted Talks only host the most influential people on the planet who share innovative ideas worth spreading. This is why TED decided to bring Alan Russell to the stage almost 10 years ago. Alan Russell Has a Ph.D in Biological Chemistry and is the director of the Disruptive Healthcare Technology Institute at Carnegie Melon University. Alan also serves as the Chief Innovation Officer and the Executive Vice President for the Allegheny Health Network.

According to CMU.EDU/ Carnegie Mellon University:

“For the last 20 years, the Russell laboratory has been discovering what can be achieved by exploiting the rich interface of chemistry, biology and materials. Dr. Russell’s work has impacted fields as diverse as chemical and polymer synthesis to tissue engineering and homeland defense. Dr. Russell has pioneered how to make polymers from enzymes and how to incorporate enzymes into bulk polymers. In a series of discoveries Dr. Russell’s laboratory has found how to meld the synthetic and biological worlds.”

Russell’s Success is exactly why he was brought to the stage to talk about the future of regenerative medicine and the potential of Stem Cells. When Alan was discussing regenerative medicine in 2006 he was only making guesses about where the future was going. Let’s take a look at a few instances where he made some great points.

Fix the Disease Before They Start

This was a great point! Back in 2006 Alan took a look at two magazine covers that were both talking about degenerative medicine. One very popular magazine said that the future of “regenerative” medicine was more like bionic humans. The magazine tried to tell the readers that the future is going to be in improving the artificial body parts, not improving the actual person.

Alan was correct when he said that the future is not going to be improving artificial parts. The future is going to be curing diseases before they start, within the body. For example if you injured your knee, he’s saying that the future is going to be in injecting “something” into the affected area to heal the joint, instead of completely replacing it. He was exactly right. Alan knew it would be “something” that was injected into the joint but he wasn’t sure it would be amniotic stem cells. Like they are today.

Regeneration is programmed in our DNA

Alan also made some great points about regeneration that most people don’t realize. Alan brought up the point that we should be focusing on regeneration, or healing of the joints, because it’s something that’s programmed into our DNA. For example, Alan pointed out that an unborn baby can completely lose a limb before the end of the first trimester and the baby will completely regrow the limb. However, after the first trimester we grow out of this and we aren’t able to regrow limbs.

Also if we are very young and we lose a fingertip in an unfortunate accident we can regrow the fingertip. However, like the unborn baby re-growing a limb, we grow out of this ability after a certain age.
The point he was making is that it’s programmed in our body to heal ourselves. Why can’t we find a way to do this on our own? At the time Alan didn’t realize that Stem Cell Therapy would be such a popular industry in 2015. We now have this ability to a certain degree. Maybe we can’t regrow our limbs but we do have the ability to regrow our joint cartilage. Because of Stem Cell Therapy we are living in the future that Alan predicted.

The Good News and the Bad

In 2006 Alan made some unsettling guesses about the success of Regenerative medicine. He was happy to say that there are a lot of places where regenerative medicine is welcomed. For example Japan is the largest population with the most amount of people who are older. Japan opens their arms to regenerative medicine. The Japanese know that the future of their people depends on the success of regenerative medicine. For example the Japanese don’t have enough people to donate organs to everyone in need so they put a lot of money into regenerative medicine.

However, Alan also mentioned that in the United States regenerative medicine isn’t funded or studied like it is in other countries. During the time of the TED talk in 2006 it seemed as though he didn’t have a positive outlook on the future of stem cell therapy. However, times have changed, laws have changed and regenerative medicine, especially stem cell therapy is on the rise!


CMU.EDU/ Carnegie Mellon University/September 1