Regenerative medicine is a concept that will continue to become a more prevalent practice in medical and science fields.
Though the concept has been around for some time, researchers are just starting to truly learn its benefits and how it can help all forms of life on our planet.
Regenerative medicine seeks to regenerate or repair tissue, organs, or cells. It commonly involves treatment through the use of cell therapy and other biological products to treat disease or injury. A common form of regenerative therapy consists of using stem cells to treat orthopedic disease or injury.
The Comparative Orthopedics and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory (CORML) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) currently researches regenerative medicine in equine (horse). This research aids in the understanding and healing of tendons, ligaments, and bone injuries in horses as well as humans.
The CORML lab is run by director Ashlee Watts, DVM, Ph.D., DACVS, and equine orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Watts splits her time between being a surgeon and performing/overseeing research.
Through Dr. Watts’ guidance, graduate student researchers such as Anne Peters, Ph.D. candidate and research assistant, are able to conduct innovative research in regenerative medicine.
Currently, Peters studies how mesenchymal stem cells function in an inflamed horse joint. Her research with equine may someday become a guide to similarly treat the joints of humans through mesenchymal stem cells.
“Horses are very physiologically similar as far as the joint goes to humans. So, [they are] athletically comparable and the joint environment is physiologically comparable so it's a good model for studying joint injury,” Peters said. “These types
of stem cells, they come from the bone marrow and so they can differentiate into bone, fat and muscle and tissues of the mesenchymal origin. So, any disease that manifests itself in those types of tissues, it could be a treatment option.”
Though Peters is able to perform her research in a world-class lab with state-of-the-art equipment, there is still much to learn about the function of stem cells in animals.
“When they first started using this as a treatment, people assumed that because they can differentiate into those different tissue types that they would go into the site of injury and differentiate into tissues. But what we're finding out over the years, is actually cell communication,” Peters said. “We put the stem cells in and they're talking to the neighboring cells, and they're recruiting in endogenous progenitor cells which means like your own your own stem cells to come in and regenerate that tissue … there are challenges and then there are advantages on all sides.”
In addition to research, the CORML lab is able to utilize its findings to treat horses when possible.