Our Accomplishments

Regenerative Medicine in South Carolina: Moving to the Next Level


Regenerative medicine (tissue engineering) is an emerging, multidisciplinary field with the potential to revolutionize health care by restoring, maintaining, or enhancing tissue and organ growth and function. Recognizing the potential benefits of regenerative medicine, the State of South approved an HSSC-supported SmartState Center in Regenerative Medicine in 2004.The long-term vision of the SmartState Center is to coalesce statewide resources to advance the field and realize the potential benefits. A three-phase plan was developed that consists of (l) focusing on basic science research, developing intellectual and facilities infrastructure and preparing for commercialization; (2) demonstrating and applying expertise and capabilities; and (3) realizing the healthcare and economic benefits.  

With activities in support of the first phase of the SmartState Center for Regenerative Medicine plan nearing completion, preparations for Phase 2 are underway. Two projects are planned that will formally organize the Center with research and training capabilities, obtain extramural funding and demonstrate commercial viability. The first will be coordinated by SmartState Endowed Chair Dr. Martin Morad of USC and is aimed at developing a biological cardiac pacemaker by genetically engineering cells. These biocompatible devices will help pace the heart without the regular maintenance and poor response to exercise and emotional demands of electronic heart pacemakers. The second project is aimed at biofabrication – production of complex tissues and organs for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. This effort will be conducted in conjunction with two other statewide efforts that include a SmartState Center in Biofabrication approved in 2008 and coordinated by Dr. Richard Swaja of MUSC, and a South Carolina Project supported by the National Science Foundation aimed at vascularization of bioprinted complex tissues and organs and will be coordinated by Dr. Roger Markwald of MUSC. It is anticipated that some current tissue engineering research with orthopaedic, neural, cancer, cardiac, and dental applications will also mature into the demonstration and application phase of the SmartState Center.  

The potential impact of regenerative medicine on patients is significant. The economic impact is also impressive. As an indication of the growth of biotechnology firms based on tissue engineering technologies and products, there were 67 such companies in the United States in 2000. By 2006, this number grew to 95 firms. A typical tissue engineering-based company is 12 years old, employs about 62 persons, and has an operating budget of about $20 million.  In addition to the direct economic impact, there are associated benefits such as companies that provide supporting materials and technologies coming to the area, funding for enhanced research and training and workforce growth.   


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