The promise of regenerative medicine is a future in which our bodies can defend themselves against the perils of age, injury and disease. A failing heart could heal itself. A broken hip could just grow the parts it needs to repair damaged joints.
Another area where regenerative medicine may pave the way for a medical revolution is plastic surgery.
In an article published last week in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, scientists looked at advancements being made in regenerative medicine. They concluded that it won't be long before we're simply growing new skin when we need a little freshening up.
"Perhaps the biggest advances in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in the coming years will be the result of regenerative medicine techniques," the University of Virginia researchers wrote.
Currently, procedures like face lifts involve actually replacing parts of the face with either synthetic material or tissue grafted from other parts of a patient's body. A patient is put under anesthesia while a surgeon uses liposuction to suck out fat from places like the belly and then injects it into the patient’s face—injecting along with it, they hope, a youthful patina.
Now, scientists are working on engineering methods that could help the body repair the damage of age without the somewhat risky and labor intensive process of grafting.
One popular technique that could be applied to plastic surgery uses stem cells, and has shown much promise in everything from repairing brain damage to worn-out joints. The Food and Drug Administration, though, has still not approved the procedure for use on patients. Another experimental technique relies on using the same platelets that cause blood to clot in order to regenerate skin tissue.
"We found that these strategies have produced very promising results and that regenerative medicine has the potential to augment conventional treatment options," the scientists wrote.
We are still at least a few years away from being able to grow our own face lifts. And it's still unclear how safe these procedures are, and how well or for how long they will work.
But, if these researchers are right, getting a face lift could one day be as simple as heading to the doctor to get a flu shot.