Regenerative medicine could cure most diseases by 2020
By Dick Pelletier
A recent government report declared the next evolution of healthcare to be regenerative medicine. This announcement has prompted officials to create the Federal Initiative for Regenerative Medicine (FIRM) with an aggressive goal to provide tissues and organs “on demand” for every American by as early as 2020.
Derived from biology, biochemistry, physics, engineering and other fields, this technology can regenerate damaged tissues and organs in vivo (in the living body) by stimulating irreparable organs into healing themselves; and grow tissues and organs in vitro (in the laboratory) when the body cannot heal itself.
Regenerative medicine has the potential to cure cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and spinal cord injuries. Potentially, this technology could cure any disease that results from malfunctioning, damaged, or failing tissues. With replaceable healthy tissues and organs readily available, doctors will save millions from suffering, illness and death.
Beyond obvious health benefits, regenerative medicine will also combat rising U.S. healthcare costs, which currently exceeds $1.5 trillion annually; most of which stems from recurring treatments for diseases arising from tissue failure, commonly seen in the elderly.
Officials make it clear that FIRM also offers an opportunity for the U.S. to remain at the forefront of regenerative medicine and not allow other countries to overtake us, as happened with the VCR, TV, automobile, and so many other “American” ideas. Already, Japan, European Union, China and Australia are planning government-supported regenerative medicine programs.
Led by top medical experts, FIRM hopes to repeat the successful formula that launched the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. FIRM will leverage government labs, funding mechanisms, and financial resources to give regenerative medicine a vision and purpose, and quickly bring its benefits to the American public.
While regenerative medicine is an inevitable evolution of science, without guidance and support the technology will take too long to mature. FIRM hopes to unravel its complexities and make it become reality within fifteen years.
America’s greatest natural resource is ingenuity, the report says. Coupled with funding and direction, our Nation can maintain its preeminence in biotech by paving the way to the future with the evolving world of regenerative medicine. By doing so, we will soon make tissue and organ failure a relic of our distant past.
However, some see a problem with older people living longer. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal spending for Social Security and Medicare will double by 2030; and fewer younger Americans will be around to foot the bill. While the number of seniors doubles, the number of working-aged people will grow by only 15%.
Advocates point out though, that incremental increase in today’s life expectancy has drastically changed the way we think and live. From Modern Maturity Magazine to octogenarians starting new companies, the gold watch at 65 already seems passé. Enthusiasts believe FIRM will keep people healthier as they age, requiring less need for financial support. Many will continue working; some will even begin new careers.
Regenerative medicine promises to bridge most people alive today into the “roaring 20s”, where medical nanobots will roam through our bodies keeping us forever healthy and youthful on this incredible trip towards a most “magical future”.