By Peter Laird, MD
Modern medicine is replete with examples of new technologies that have helped relieve the suffering of patients with various conditions. One area of medicine that has evaded progress is those with severe burns which are hampered by the inevitable infections that cause the majority of deaths after severe burns. An acquaintance posted the following video on Facebook that may revolutionize the treatment of burns.
Perhaps one day, regeneration of organs will be the operative method of treating many illnesses. For those on dialysis, being able to regenerate your own renal tissues in a functional manner or repair your own damaged kidney may one day prove to be the optimal renal replacement therapy and give the term RRT a very new meaning. Many researchers believe that the type of advance in the video above with the skin gun, may in fact become the reality of nephrology in the future.
Neonephrogenesis, the capacity to regenerate renal tissue, is a distinctive feature of fish but not usually of mammals. However, evidence exists for kidney repair in response to insulting agents for animals and human beings. Studies have therefore been designed in the past few years to clarify the cellular and molecular basis of renal repair, with the aim to investigate the potential regenerative capacity of animal and human kidneys. Three main questions are being addressed by this research: whether terminally differentiated cells in adult animal kidneys have regenerative capacity; whether multipotent progenitor cells exist in kidneys; and whether renal repair can be favoured or accelerated by cells of extrarenal origin migrating to the kidney in response to injury. In this Review, we describe evidence of cellular and molecular pathways related to renal repair and regeneration, and review data from animal and human studies that show that the kidney might have regenerative capacity.
Renal repair and regeneration sounds much better than being hooked up to my dialysis machine hour after hour. Mind you, I am ever bit grateful for the modern marvel called dialysis, but just as "spray painting" skin stem cells onto a severe burn providing a permanent cover in a matter of days would have sounded as crazy as does regerating an entire kidney. For now, I can only be thankful that one less group of patients with severe suffering is now looking to a much brighter future with essentially a cure leaving no scars and eliminating months of expensive medical care with a high morbidity and mortality. Most importantly, the elimination of weeks and months if not years of pain and suffering that often results in severe disfigurement and disability may be the greatest benefit of this new technology.
The genius of man by God's grace when applied to relieving pain and suffering is nothing short of a modern marvel. Between the time that a regenerated kidney becomes a reality if these hopes are one day realized, renal replacement therapy is an area of modern research where new and innovative technological marvels could themselves relieve much pain and suffering seen across America each and every day. Today, we still have the essential components of dialysis which were invented in the 1960's. Perhaps one day, the technological breakthrough coupled with the will to relieve pain and suffering will propel renal replacement treatments into an entirely new realm. We can only hope and dream and pray for God's wisdom and grace that it would be so.