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December 18, 2020
Harvard scientists reported earlier this month that they essentially cured blindness in lab mice by delivering youth-restoring genes into the animals’ retinas, thus “turning back the clock” on their cells.
The achievement perfectly parallels the breakthroughs medical researchers are pursuing for humans in the field of regenerative medicine – the repair, rejuvenation and replacement of diseased or damaged tissues and organs. Nearly $16 billion was invested into the sector in the first three quarters of 2020, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. That’s up 115% from the same period last year.
Three methods of regeneration
Regenerative medicine encompasses three treatment approaches: gene therapy, cell therapy and tissue-based regeneration.
Gene therapy involves modifying or introducing genes into a patient’s body, and has shown some success in treating sickle-cell disease, hemophilia, blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa, leukemia and severe combined immune deficiency. Cell therapy introduces cells to grow, replace or repair damaged tissue, such as when blood-forming cells recharge the immune system in a bone marrow transplant to fight cancer. Tissue engineering seeks to restore, maintain, improve, or replace damaged tissues and organs – e.g., cartilage, skin, heart muscle or kidneys – through the combination of scaffolds, cells, and/or biologically active molecules.
Consider, as Mayo Clinic details in these videos, the heart failure patient treated with cells that release growth factors into a malfunctioning heart to improve its performance and patient energy. Or the tennis player who heals after receiving platelet-rich plasma injected into a chronically injured elbow tendon. A woman with a larynx tumor receives half a voice box built outside her body using stem cells grown on a tissue-lined 3D-printed scaffold. All of these examples conceptually turn back the clock on troubling conditions.
Hundreds of clinical trials
At the end of the third quarter, 1,109 regenerative-medicine clinical trials were under way around the world, according to ARM. The trials targeted cancer, heart disease, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases (including COVID-19) and diabetes. More than half of phase 1 trials focused on cell-based immuno-oncology. Of the 1,026 regenerative-medicine and advanced therapy developers active globally, 536 were active in gene therapy, 641 were active in cell therapy, and 135 were active in tissue-based therapies.
Human biospecimens for regenerative medicine
iSpecimen is deeply involved in helping regenerative-medicine researchers pursue their goals. We provide a variety of human biospecimens for the research, development and commercialization of regenerative medical treatments. Our hematopoietic and immune cell products can serve as critical starting materials for developing autologous or allogeneic stem cell or immunotherapies, which may involve gene-editing primary cells as with CAR-T cancer-fighting therapy. Some of our viable cells can be induced to pluripotency – the ability to become a variety of different tissues or organs – which is crucial in cell therapy and tissue engineering.
To help researchers start their work with less upfront time, money and effort, we’ve made it easy for them to search, select and procure the human biospecimens they need on the iSpecimen Marketplace. Samples are annotated with rich data about the specimens themselves and the patients from whom they originate. Contracting, order management and compliance are streamlined by the marketplace in the process.
Regenerative medicine holds exciting promise for health care and for reversing some of the ill effects of aging and disease. We’re excited to be a part of it.
Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified human tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products and COVID-19 samples. You can join for free and creating a login is easy. Request a quote or custom collection today.