Regenerative medicine seems like a far-fetched dream, even in today's age of technology and discovery.
Yet helping the body heal from within and regain function, using its own cells, is inching ever closer to mainstream medicine.
People involved in economic development, research, medicine and biotechnology want to transform Rochester into the nation's first regenerative-medicine cluster.
Researchers want to give physicians the ability to guide the body so that it heals organs the way it heals a cut on a finger.
At Mayo Clinic in Rochester, scientists have already begun to succeed.
Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy in 2010 deemed regenerative medicine a strategic priorityfor the nationwide health and research institution.
Mayo scientists and Belgian colleagues demonstrated that year that "rationally 'guided' human adult stem cells can effectively heal, repair and regenerate damaged heart tissue," according to Mayo's announcement.
Adult stem cells are ones taken from a person's own body, ones that have the potential to be triggered to develop into desired tissue.
Some types of regenerative medicine have been safely used for a long time — bone marrow transplants for childhood leukemia, for example.
Research might seem to be taking too long to outside observers who want cures sooner rather than later. Those cures will not magically blossom overnight. But the field of regenerative medicine is progressing rapidly, especially in Rochester.
"We are able to educate our patients through a new service that we have, which is called the Regenerative Medicine Clinic," said Mayo heart specialist Dr. Andre Terzic. "So you come to Mayo, and you are questioning whether maybe there is a regenerative option for you, we have a dedicated regenerative-medicine clinic, and that clinic is, to our knowledge, very unique in the health care profession. We are not actually aware of another regenerative-medicine clinic in the United States or abroad."
Mayo used a video this yearto openly ask its staff to imagine that insulin for diabetes, oxygen tanks, daily pills and dialysis will no longer be needed because of the clinic's work.
"At Mayo Clinic, we're teaching the body to heal itself from within," the video proclaims. "Imagine if youbecome the answer — cures become what's common."