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Festival of Social Science Shines Spotlight on Regenerative Medicine

Dec 16, 2014

A panel of experts discussed the benefits and limitations of regenerative medicine at the Festival of Social Science in London.

It grows increasingly clear that regenerative medicine is making its way to the forefront of the health care industry. It’s becoming a subject of great importance at many medical and scientific conferences and events, and in 2014, it was a topic of focus at an international event that concentrates on social science research: the U.K.’s Festival of Social Science.

What is the Festival of Social Science?
The Festival of Social Science, which was held in London Nov. 1 through 8, is the annual highlight event of the Economic and Social Research Council. The aim of this fest is to give the public, researchers and potential investors insight into social science research and the way it affects the social, economic and political realms. It featured more than 200 events suitable for people of all ages and levels of knowledge – from school children to experts of social science. It covers a wide variety of topics, from the politics of sustainability to the methods for improving the schooling experience. One subject of particular interest to those in the health care field was the technologies of regenerative medicine.

Festival participants delve into regenerative medicine
On Nov. 4, the Festival of Social Science hosted a conference titled “Innovation (re)generation: Exploring regenerative medicine.” It was organized by the Innogen Institute and Mason Institute at the University of Edinburgh and began with a 10-minute documentary. The film featured opinions on the field of regenerative medicine from a variety of industry professionals, including scientists currently developing new cell therapies, academics delving into the subject and experts focused on the practicalities of applying new therapies in a clinical setting. Following the documentary was a discussion led by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the documentary’s director and the subjects featured in the film.

The talks touched on the notion that regenerative medicine could provide new and permanent solutions for illness, disease and injury that were once thought impossible, and they explored the many different applications of the broad field, from cell therapy to tissue engineering. The discussion echoed the notion that the Innogen Institute has long held about the emerging field; prior to the festival, Dr. Joyce Tait, director of the Institute for Innovation Generation in the Life Sciences, explained to Health Canal the great benefits that regenerative medicine could mean for the future.

“We are living at the frontier of a totally new kind of health future in which, through regenerative medicine we can replace or regenerate diseased cells, tissues or organs providing potential cures for conditions such as spinal cord damage, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease or heart failure,” Tain said. “Regenerative medicine would transform health care – including for those with very rare conditions – and patients would be offered curative, not palliative, therapies.”

Discussing the limitations of regenerative medicine
The discussion also looked into the many other ways regenerative medicine may affect society, including the legal, ethical, regulatory and organizational implications. These professionals as well as participants from the audience took the opportunity to question the industry’s – and the world’s – readiness for regenerative medicine and how it will change health care. Some suggested that many legal and regulatory frameworks of developed countries are creating limitations around a field with such great potential, and they also discussed the lack of business models that help guide investors interested in regenerative medicine therapies.

The panel of experts may each have their own opinions on what changes need to be made to fully embrace the potential of regenerative medicine. However, there is one thing that most seem to agree upon: A broad approach that takes into consideration all of the key concerns – the science behind therapies, the strategies for innovation, issues with regulation and governance, and perspectives from all stakeholders as well as the public – is essential to ensure a greater understanding of the implications and soaring possibilities of regenerative medicine.

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