New Frontiers

On a plane returning from this year’s North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Conference, held June 2-4 in Lexington, Ky., I can barely bridle my excitement. I feel as if I have just been part of the future of medicine and science.
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By Richard Markell, DVM

On a plane returning from this year’s North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Conference, held June 2-4 in Lexington, Ky., I can barely bridle my excitement. I feel as if I have just been part of the future of medicine and science. It was a meeting of brilliant researchers and practitioners who are discovering new frontiers in regenerative medicine and trying to build the scaffold of medical therapy for the next century.

The conference attendees were an eclectic group: academicians from universities, human medical doctors, small animal veterinarians, and equine veterinarians who gathered to share ideas and report research. We have an advantage in the veterinary profession because we are able to use many regenerative therapies in everyday practice that are more tightly regulated (and limited) in the human field. Many in human medicine are looking toward veterinary medicine for clinical responses to therapy they can only dream about trying in their patients.

Regenerative medicine by definition is the path to help the body heal itself. Stems cells, for instance, have the capacity to become virtually any type of cell, and platelets appear to play an important role in healing. Nature is an unbelievable director, but we must understand how it works before we can manipulate it for our benefit. We must understand that our therapeutic goal is to make its systems work even better, to help the body heal itself, and to interrupt the path when it goes awry. We must understand how to prevent the misguidance of therapy that can stand in the way of healing. Can we help a nonfunctional pancreas regenerate to cure diabetes; regrow bone that has been removed during cancer surgery; _replace cartilage in a damaged osteoarthritis affected joint; or regrow a limb severed by an accident? Many of these are distant possibilities based on potential, while others are practiced in clinics today

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