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Surgery and Regenerative Medicine Don’t Have to Be at Odds

bioprinting of tissues and organs
Darryl Wahl
Written by Darryl Wahl

Regenerative medicine procedures are often marketed as alternatives to invasive surgery. That is neither unusual nor unreasonable. The person who undergoes stem cell therapy as a treatment for osteoarthritis may do so in order to avoid knee replacement. Still, surgery and regenerative medicine do not have to be at odds. If researchers at the University of Oxford have anything to say about it, they may not be for much longer.

The researchers are working on a method of using 3D printing principles to form living structures. Rather than using advanced plastics though, their printers use biological material to create living tissue constructs. Researchers are working on overcoming the main obstacles that have thus far prevented bio-printing from taking off.

For example, the soft scaffolding needed to support cells as new tissue is being created tends to collapse on itself during printing. This makes it very difficult to complete more complex printing operations. The solution is to come up with a better scaffolding. That is what the researchers at Oxford are working on.

A Treatment for Osteoarthritis

The Oxford project has a number of possible applications should the researchers accomplish their goals. For example, they are looking at treating new cartilage that could then be used to treat osteoarthritis. This is where surgery and regenerative medicine can be combined to benefit the patient.

New cartilage would be constructed in a lab before being sent to a medical facility for implantation. The implantation process would be surgical in nature, though arthroscopic surgery would prove far less invasive than opening the entire knee joint. Regenerative medicine would then be used to encourage that cartilage to continue growing until the affected knee was back to normal.

Combining surgery and regenerative medicine is not a new concept. One need look only at common wound healing practices to see evidence. For example, regenerative medicine has already been approved by the FDA to promote wound healing following surgery. Doctors often inject platelet-rich plasma into surgical sites for that very reason.

The Best Outcome for Patients

At Apex Biologix, where doctors go to be trained in the use of PRP in stem cell therapies, the goal is always one of producing the best outcomes for patients. In light of that, doctors learn that regenerative medicine and surgical procedures are not exclusive to one another. They learn that there are times when regenerative medicine is not appropriate as a treatment. They also learn that the two can be combined if doing so would produce a better outcome.

Much of the current debate surrounding regenerative medicine has to do with a lack of scientific evidence proving the efficacy of things like PRP in stem cell therapies. The debate has unfortunately resulted in groups of people that are about as divided as they could be. It is unfortunate, to say the least.

A lack of clinical studies aside, medical science already knows what stem cells are capable of. Science already knows that blood platelets include numerous growth factors that are essential to healing. So if we know these things, why can’t we agree on the need to find ways to use regenerative medicine to produce better outcomes?

Regenerative medicine and surgery do not have to be presented as a ‘one or the other’ proposition. There are many cases where one option is preferred to the exclusion of the other; there are other cases in which the two can be used together. That’s the very reason Oxford researchers are working on 3D tissue printing. They are working on technologies to produce better results.

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Darryl Wahl

Darryl Wahl

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