Doctor Alan Russell kept the audience hooked as he discussed the exciting possibilities of growing human limbs and organs using regenerative medicine in a session titled “The Lizard’s Tail: Can Human Limbs Regenerate Themselves?” at THiNK 2013.
In his presentation, Dr Russell showed how certain animals such as a salamander can naturally re-grow their limbs in the eventuality of them being cut. He pointed out that the human body was not endowed with the capacity to re-generate missing limbs or organs naturally. However, what excites Dr Russell is the idea behind why a lizard or a salamander could do it and a human could not. According to him, the human body in case of an injury does have a mechanism to respond to but it falls short of the ability to re-generate missing limbs. Dr Russell explained that regenerative medicine is all about intervening in this process of the human body’s response to injury. The doctor went on to highlight the important role played by machines in regenerative medicine and the use of reactors in growing organs outside the body.
Dr Russell revealed that a lot of people were enjoying the benefits of regenerative medicine – from wounded war veterans, cancer patients, heart disease patients (that includes former US Vice President Dick Cheney) and others suffering from juvenile diabetes. He foresees a future where almost any disease could be treated with the help of regenerative medicine.
Despite the euphoria, the doctor admits that what is wrong about re-generative medicine is that it is quite inaccessible at present to a large part of the world. But despite the challenges involved, he was emphatic in his vision of working towards ensuring that re-generative medicine is not just limited to wealthy countries. Summing up his missionary zeal the doctor said, “We need to take regenerative medicines to places where it is not affordable”.
By Shashank Shah