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Exploring Regenerative Medicine

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Regenerative medicine (RM) therapies - including gene therapies, cell therapies and tissue engineering - promise to revolutionise healthcare, offering cures for previously incurable conditions, through the regeneration of tissue within the body. But regenerative medicine comes with a raft of ethical, social, legal, organisational, regulatory and economic implications that must be tackled before its potential can be realised, argues Professor Joyce Tait - Director of the ESRC-funded Institute for Innovation Generation in the Life Sciences (Innogen Institute). 

 “We are living at the frontier of a totally new kind of health future,” Professor Tait points out, “in which, through regenerative medicine we can replace or regenerate diseased cells, tissues or organs providing potential cures for conditions such as spinal cord damage, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease or heart failure.”  Regenerative medicine would transform healthcare – including for those with very rare conditions - and patients would be offered curative, not palliative, therapies.”

Realising that potential within current legal and regulatory frameworks is not possible, according to researchers from Innogen and the J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law (MI). They also point out that, from a business point of view, there are no established models to guide companies considering investment in RM therapies, and the value chains that are needed to enable translation to viable therapies do not exist.

Taking a broad approach which brings all the key issues together – including science and innovation strategies, governance and regulation issues, and public and stakeholder perspectives – is crucial, the researchers believe, in ensuring wider understanding of both the possibilities and implications of living in a RM world.

Scientists, social science and legal academics, policymakers and industry representatives will explore our readiness for regenerative medicine at an event held during the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science and co-hosted by the Innogen Institute and MI. Scientists developing new RM therapies, academics exploring the impact of RM, and those dealing with the practicalities of bringing new therapies from the lab to the patient will explain how they feel about RM in a 10-minute documentary, followed by discussion, in Edinburgh on 4 November.