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Development, Regeneration and Stem Cell Biology Research

[University of Michigan Law School]


- Developmental Biology

Developmental biology is the field of biology that studies the processes of growth and development of multicellular organisms under the control of their genes. Understanding normal developmental processes helps to understand dysplasia and other diseases, such as cancer.

Modern developmental biology studies the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation, and "morphogenesis," the process that produces tissues, organs, and anatomical structures. Embryology is the subfield that studies organisms between the one-cell stage (usually zygote) and the end of the embryonic stage.

Embryology and developmental biology today study the various steps necessary for the correct and complete formation of an organism.

Developmental biology includes the production of gametes, fertilization, development of embryos, emergence of adult organisms, aging and death. Developmental biologists seek to understand the molecular, genetic, cellular, and integrative aspects of building an organism.


- Regenerative Biology

In biology, regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage. Every species is capable of regeneration, from bacteria to humans. 

The field of regenerative biology seeks to elucidate how organisms repair and replace missing cells, tissues and structures. It includes aspects of stem cell biology, wound healing, tissue homeostasis, aging and developmental patterns. 

Regenerative biologists are interested in how and why regeneration succeeds in spectacular ways (like that of salamander limbs), but they also explore why it fails in situations such as heart attacks in humans. Common animal models for studying regeneration include hydra, planarians, insects such as Drosophila, fish, salamanders, frogs, and mice.


- Regenerative Biology and Medicine

Replacing damaged tissues and organs with tissue-organ grafts or biomimetic implants has serious drawbacks. A new approach to tissue and organ replacement, regenerative biology and medicine is now emerging. Regenerative biology seeks to understand the cellular and molecular differences between regenerating and non-regenerative tissues. 

Regenerative medicine attempts to apply this understanding to restore the tissue structure and function of damaged non-regenerative tissues. Regeneration is accomplished by three mechanisms, each of which uses or produces a different kind of regenerative cells. 

Regenerative medicine uses three approaches. The first is to transplant cells into the damaged area. The second is to construct bioartificial tissues by seeding cells into biodegradable scaffolds, where they generate a normal matrix. The third is to use biomaterial scaffolds or drug delivery systems to stimulate regenerative cells to regenerate in vivo. 

There is substantial evidence that non-regenerative mammalian tissues contain regeneratively competent cells that are forced into pathways for scar tissue formation. Regeneration can be induced if factors that lead to scar formation are inhibited and an appropriate signaling environment is provided.


- Stem Cells

Stem cells are fundamental units of regeneration and reprogramming of cell fate, key events in the control of development, homeostasis, health and the successful implementation of treatments for human diseases.

Stem cells are the body’s “master cells.” They are the building blocks of all organs, tissues, blood and the immune system. In many tissues they serve as an internal repair system, regenerating to replace lost or damaged cells for the life of a person.

Stem cells are cells that have the unique ability to develop into specialized cell types in the body. In the future, they may be used to replace cells and tissues damaged or lost due to disease.

Our bodies are made up of many different types of cells. Most cells specialize in specific functions, such as red blood cells. Oxygen is carried in our blood, but they cannot be divided. Stem cells provide the body with new cells as the body grows and replace damaged or lost specialized cells. 

They have two unique properties that allow them to do this:

  • They can divide again and again to produce new cells.
  • When they divide, they can become other types of cells that make up the body.


[More to come ...]


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