The idea of the body healing itself may be close to making a huge leap forward. Much closer than we think.

The rapidly evolving field of regenerative medicine—including stem cells, 3-D printing and bioengineering, among other technologies—is helping repair, and even regenerate, body parts and tissues damaged by disease, trauma or age.

“Regenerative medicine is not trying to create the bionic man but to harness the healing powers of the human body and buttress them,” says Andre Terzic, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine in Rochester, Minn. That means treating chronic or degenerative ailments and replacing failing organs. In the U.S. alone, more than 120,000 people are on organ-transplant waiting lists.

Predictions, of course, are not always borne out. But “we’re making an awful lot of solid discoveries,” says Rosemarie Hunziker, director of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in Bethesda, Md.

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