Ethical and Legal Issues

“Regenerative medicine” describes a set of innovative approaches to the treatment of illness, injury, and disability, focusing on the growth, replacement, and repair of cells, organs, and tissues specific to the health needs of particular individuals. The extraordinary breadth of application of this approach is clear from an enumeration of just a few areas of regenerative medicine research, such as stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, pluripotent stem cells produced by genetic reprogramming, and multipotent stem cells from non-embryonic tissues; techniques for stimulating endogenous cell growth and repair for the kidney and pancreas in diabetes, or for digits and limbs injured as a result of trauma; and the growth of replacement tissues and organs, for example, blood vessels, hollow organs like the bladder, and even solid organs like the heart. This enormous diversity of applications, all currently in various stages of research and development, stems from a multidisciplinary research orientation incorporating genetics, informatics, basic research into the structure, mechanics, and development of different tissues, and creative production techniques. Despite its enormous promise, however, at this time regenerative medicine’s many applications constitute a very early step along the road to effective treatments.

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