The human body is made with precision, with each organ and organ system playing a specific unique role. When an organ or body part starts to malfunction, is damaged, or lost, there is often a huge gap to fill. This can happen from disease or injury. Medical researchers have been looking for ways to improve the health and well-being of people who have sustained such injuries. Besides improved wound healing, organ regeneration is one of the interesting areas being studied.
Natural Versus Artificial Organ Regeneration
There are some organs and tissues in the human body that generate or regrow themselves once again after an injury. The skin is a body tissue that regrows quickly often on its own. The liver, although a very large organ, also has the capacity to regrow naturally. Other organs, however, do not possess this natural ability for regeneration. Researchers are exploring this area because finding ways to regenerate vital organs such as the heart and lungs could radically improve the medical field. So far, the studies indicate that there are various methods that could prove useful in tissue and whole organ regeneration.
Non-injured tissue regeneration happens naturally over time. Cells grow, die, and get replaced naturally in most human tissues. One example is human bone. Every 10 years, a full bone is regenerated. Skin tissue, which has not been damaged or injured, is regenerated in just 2 weeks.
The complications happen when the tissue or organ has been injured in some way. The body must do what it can to deal with this unexpected incident. The emergency response may look like the development of scar tissue over time. Some human organs and tissue that can regenerate themselves when injured include the liver, the endometrium, and the fingertips.
Methods of Induced Human Tissue and Organ Regeneration
The importance of the research in organ and tissue regeneration cannot be overstated. Some organs believed to be incapable of regrowth and regeneration, are being tested using various scientific techniques to explore new avenues for success. If induced regeneration is achieved, this changes the story for people who have been injured or whose organs are damaged or malfunctioning. Medical researchers have a goal of being able to regenerate any human organ or tissue in the near future. Below are some of the methods being looked at to accomplish this goal.
Regeneration has been explored using instruments. Experiments done on pig tissue in 2013 showed that needle piercings do not scar, while a cut by a scalpel does. This led to the exploration of a method of removing the skin in extremely tiny portions that do not scar. This is known as a fractional pattern technique. It was attempted on human tissue in 2016 and proved successful.
Another method being explored is using materials to aid regeneration. Injured human tissues are capable of regenerating themselves up to 2 mm. to further this distance, different materials have been studied to see their ability to induce further regeneration. In 2009, a distance of 1cm was achieved using these methods on a wound. The material allows the cells to close the gap made by the wound. When a degradable material is used, it can disintegrate once it has achieved its purpose.
3D printing is an interesting technology being applied to many fields, including the medical field. Researchers are working on 3D printing hollow human organs and tissues. There are different levels of this depending on the complexity of the tissue or organ, but so far the results are promising.
One other possible method of regeneration is using drugs to transform human cells from one type to another. This was achieved in 2016 when skin cells were reprogrammed using a specific dose of chemicals.