What are the types of advanced therapies?
In cell therapy, new cells are introduced into tissue to treat a disease – either from the patient’s own body (autologous), from another person (allogenic) or from an animal (xenogenic).
A person’s own cell and tissue can offer a patient a wide range of health care solutions, from prosthetic and restorative to therapeutic or even cosmetic in nature.
Under normal conditions damaged joint cartilage does not – or only poorly - regenerates in the body. For several years now, cell therapy for restoring defects to knee cartilage has been available by growing a patient's own cartilage cells to repair cartilage defects. Active research, involving human cell-and tissue-based products, is being conducted in the regeneration and repair of bones, tendons, nerves and ligaments.
Research into stem cells result in important cell-based therapies to treat serious diseases and conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injuries, as well as diabetes, stroke, burns, skin disorders and heart disease. Researchers work on three types of human stem cells – adult, foetal or embryonic.
Despite the high standard of today's medical treatments, and the number of already available drugs, many of the most debilitating human diseases do not have a cure yet. The molecular basis of many inborn disorders, such as haemophilia, cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy, has been exposed by the discovery of affected genes. In gene therapy, genes are introduced to replace, repair or switch off defective ones.
In many forms of cancer, genetic predisposition plays as important a role as environmental factors in tumour growth, and malignancy. Identifying the gene for such diseases and redirecting its course is one of the most promising ways to cure certain diseases.
Gene therapy has entered a phase of active clinical investigation in many areas of medicine. Human clinical trials have been started for the treatment of severe immunodeficiencies, cystic fibrosis, hypercholesterolemia, haemophilia, muscular dystrophy, many types of tumours (e.g. melanoma, prostate, ovarian and lung cancer), AIDS, and cardiovascular disorders.
Tissue engineering is aimed at replacing or repairing defective tissue, and is generally seen as relating to bone, cartilage and blood vessels such as veins and arteries. This expanding field covers the techniques of bioengineering and cell biology (and often cell therapy itself). It is already being used to repair or replace burnt skin, for example.