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  • Review
  • Open Access

Regenerative medicine in China: demands, capacity, and regulation

Burns & Trauma20164:24

  • Received: 23 March 2016
  • Accepted: 27 April 2016
  • Published:


Regenerative medicine (RM) is an emerging interdisciplinary field of research. Its clinical application focuses on the repair, replacement, and regeneration of cells, tissues, and organs by approaches including cell reprogramming, stem cell transplantation, tissue engineering, activating factors, and clone treatment. RM has become a hot point of research in China and other countries. China’s main and local governments have attached great importance to RM and given strong support in relevant policies and funding. About 3.5 billion RMB has been invested in this field. Since 1999, China has established about 30 RM centers and cooperates with many advanced countries in RM research and benefits from their cooperation. However, China needs to develop standards, regulations, and management practices suitable for the healthy development of RM. In this review, we focus on its great demand, capacity, and relative regulations.


  • Regenerative medicine
  • Stem cell
  • Tissue engineering
  • China


Annually, about 100 million Chinese patients will receive treatment by tissue repair and regeneration technologies because of the sharp increase in various injuries, accidents, and diseases of aging. However, the current paradigm of “healing by scar tissue replacement,” regardless of superficial tissues or visceral organs, is stagnating and is far away from the ultimate goal of “regenerating the impaired organ.” Regenerative medicine (RM) is gradually being used to restore the intrinsic repair ability with stem cell transplantation, tissue engineering, activating factors, cell reprogramming, and genetic treatments. RM holds sound promise of restoring organ function that is impaired because of congenital disorders, acquired disease, trauma, and aging by replacing or regenerating cells, tissues, and even organs. RM is expected to transcend traditional organ transplantation and replacement. Stem cell technology and tissue engineering have an outstanding role in RM. RM will become one of the most promising areas of life science in the twenty-first century [1, 2].

In the past 20 years, the RM market has continued to grow in China and other countries such as the USA, Europe, Japan, and Singapore. As the largest developing country, China has impressed the world with its findings in stem cells, tissue engineering, active molecules, and gene therapy as well as its national strategies and regulation of RM. These achievements may benefit China in both disease treatment and society development [3].


Strategies, guidance, funding, and industrialization of RM in china

National strategies

The central government of China supports the development of RM. In the 2006 National Plan for Long- and Medium-Term Scientific and Technological Development (2006–2020), stem cells and RM technologies were the important fields among the five biotechnologies ( Also, local governments have adopted stem cell research as one of the priorities of technological development and provided active support. Relevant government departments and academia have paid close attention to and encouraged the development of RM. In the Science & Technology on Public Health in China: A Roadmap to 2050, issued by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) [4], and the Study on the Long- and Medium-Term Development Strategy for China Engineering Science and Technology, issued by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) (, RM was considered a major research field. In the Roadmap of Translational Medicine in China issued by CAE, RM and biotherapy are main fields. Industrialization of RM is a part of the “12th Five-Year Planning” and will be nurtured as a source of economic growth.

The strategic science and technology projects from CAS can be divided into “Forward-Looking Strategic Priority Research Program of Science and Technology” and “Construction of Research Centers for Basic and Forefront Scientific Research.” Academia held three Xiangshan Science Conferences on RM, in 2005, 2010, and 2015, to discuss the philosophy, scope, and major breakthroughs needed for the development of RM in China and the key scientific issues to be addressed. In addition, the Xiangshan Science Conference organized seminars on stem cell biology and cloning, strategies for research and development of gene therapy and biomaterials, and tissue engineering.

Regulatory and scientific guidance

Policies and regulations reflect that China is gradually strengthening the management of RM research and clinical application. Since 1999, when the Ministry of Health (MH) promulgated the first Umbilical cord blood stem cell bank management approach (Trial), about 30 rules and regulations have been issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), the MH, and the State Food and Drug Agency (SFDA) (Table 1).
Table 1

Management specification of stem cell transplantation techniques


Management specification of stem cell transplantation techniques


Unrelated Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Technique


Unrelated Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Collection Technique


Cord Blood Stem Cell Therapy Technology (Trial)


Tissue-engineering Tissue Transplantation Therapy Technique (Trial)

In 2011, the First National Stem Cell Research Guidance and Coordination Committee was established for the overall design and scientific planning of stem cell research in China. In December 2011, the Notice on Carrying out Self-inspection and Self-rectification Campaign Regarding Stem Cell Clinical Research and Application was issued. In 2013, the stem cell clinical research and application rectification lead group of the MH and SFDA formulated the regulations Management Specification of Stem Cell Clinical Trials (Trial), Management Specification of Stem Cell Clinical Trial Research Base (Trial), and Stem Cell Preparation Quality Control and Pre-clinical Research Guidelines (Trial). These regulations will be implemented soon and help in the development of RM in China. In 2015, China MH opens the window to allow the stem cell clinic trial and stem cell research bases which will promote the development of stem cell research and translational application in China.

Funding support and resources

Multiple sources are funding RM studies and translational application. After 1999, the MST approved the National Program on Key Basic Research Project (973 Program) related to tissue engineering, and the stem cell field had the largest number of “973 Program” projects. Research into the clinical transformation and application of stem cell therapy was established in the biotechnology and medical technology field of the “863 Program.” The National Natural Science Foundation (NNSF) funded about 200 million RMB for this study, including 5627 items (Fig. 1a, b). Up to now, about 3 billion RMB from the MST, CAS, and NNSF has been invested in this field. Both the amount of funding and number of projects are increasing annually. Other funding for RM from companies is about 500 million RMB. In 2015, NNSF plans to invest RM research as its “Great Research Plan,” and MST has issued its new scientific research grand with about 21 billion RMB in RM field.
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

National Natural Science Foundation of China investment in regenerative medicine from 2000 to 2014. a Amount of funding. b Number of funds

Translating outcomes into industrialization

The establishment of centers and technological translational application are important for RM development. Since 1999, China has established about 30 RM centers. These centers are involved in stem cell research and its translational application (e.g., national stem cell east center and national stem cell centers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Wuxi, Taizhou, etc.) (; national stem cell and RM technology innovation strategic alliance (sponsors and governing members include 27 first-class research institutes, well-known three-A hospitals, several “211 Project” key universities and industry leaders); and a tissue engineering innovation center in Shanghai. In 2011, the first academic workstation for the industrialization of stem cell technology was launched in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Companies such as Cyagen Biosciences (Guangzhou) and Hangzhou Biowish Technology (Biowish) are specialized in the development and sales of stem cell products. In 2009, NeoStem announced that it had reached an exclusive agreement for strengthening biomedical cooperation with Shanghai enterprises. This agreement aims to establish a network of stem cell collection and treatment centers in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Anhui, and Jiangxi provinces. In 2010, the Beike Stem Cell Bank and Stem Cell Preparation Laboratory successfully passed the ISO 9001 quality management system certification and obtained the qualification certification issued by China Quality Certification Center, becoming the first comprehensive stem cell bank to pass ISO 9001 quality management system certification in China (

Production in academic fields

Publication of valued scientific papers is one of the very important indicators to evaluate investment and production in academic fields. The total number of scientific papers dealing with RM has increased quickly in China, as has the number published in leading scientific journals in China and internationally (Fig. 2). Since the 1960s, the USA has published 599 articles about stem cells in Cell and its subjournals (36), Germany published 45, Japan 36, and China only 17. Since 2000, the number of annual patent applications for stem cells has increased quickly and amounted to 1333 in 2009. In 2011, the Chinese literature related to stem cells outnumbered that of published by German, Japanese, and UK researchers and ranked second. In 2012, it had increased. In terms of citations, the USA ranked the first, with a mean of 32.2 citations per item. However, citations for Chinese publications are increasing annually, and the mean number is currently 10.19. For patent applications, as of March 2010, the number of China stem cell-related patent applications and patent applications as a patent priority country was ranked the sixth and third in the world, respectively. The USA, Japan, and China have applied for more patents as patent priority countries (
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Outputs of regenerative medicine research papers compared with major countries (ISI Web of Knowledge). a Stem cells. b Tissue engineering

Also, many monographs on stem cells or tissue engineering and RM have been published which play some role in pushing the research of RM in China (Tables 2, 3, and 4).
Table 2

Main monographs on regenerative medicine published in China




Publishing company


Regenerative Medicine: From Basic to Clinic Research

Fu Xiaobing, Wang Zhengguo, Wu Zuze [5]

Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers


Regenerative Medicine: Theory and Technology

Pei Xuetao [6]

Science Press


Regenerative Medicine

Ding Fei, Liu Wei, Gu Xiaosong [7]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Regenerative Medicine: Basic and Clinical Research

Fu Xiaobing, Wang Zhengguo, Wu Zuze [8]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Jin yan [9]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Chinese Discipline Development Strategy Regenerative Medicine

Chinese Academy of Sciences [10]

Science Press

Table 3

Main monographs on stem cells published in China




Publishing company


Basic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant

Wu Zuze [11]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Stem Cells and Developmental Biology

Ye Xinsheng, Xu Tian, Tang Xifang, Pei Xuetao [12]

Military Medical Science Press


Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation

Da Wanming, Pei Xuetao [13]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Hematopoietic Stem Cells Theory and Transplant Technique

Han Zhongchao [14]

Henan Science and Technology Press


Stem Cell Biology

Pei Xuetao [15]

Science Press


Stem Cells Theory and Technique

Wang Tinghua, Li Liyan [16]

Science Press


Stem Cells Biology

Hu Huozhen [17]

Sichuan University Press


Principles, Technology and Clinic of Stem Cell

Zhao Chunhua [18]

Chemical Industry Press


Neural Stem Cell Foundation and Application

Zhu Xiaofeng [19]

Science Press


Neural Stem Cell

Xu Ruxiang [20]

Military Medical Science Press


Hematopoietic Stem Cell Biology and Research Methods

Wang Yaping [21]

Science Press


Stem Cell Aging and Disease

Wang Yaping [22]

Science Press


Fundamental and Clinic Research of Stem Cells

Yu Yue [23]

Press of University of Science and Technology of China


New Technologies of Stem cell Application

Yang Xiaofeng, Zhang Sufen, Guo Zikuan [24]

Military Medical Science Press


Clinical Research of Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Wang Tong [25]

People’s Medical Publishing House Co., Ltd


The Basis, Ethics and Principles of Clinical Applications of Stem Cells

Jin Kunlin [26]

Science Press


Research Legal Regulation of Human Embryonic Stem Cell

Zhao Xu [27]

Shanghai People’s Publishing House


Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Basic Research and Clinical Application

Han Zhongchao [28]

Science Press


Clinical Research and Application of Stem Cells

Gu Yongquan, Han Zhongcao, Fu Xiaobing [29]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Application of Stem Cell Technology for Cardiovascular Diseases

Ma Yitong, Ge Junbo [30]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Development Report on Technology and Industry of Stem Cell

Dai Tao, Chi Hui, Fu Xiaobing, Pei Xuetao, Zhou Qi, Li Defu, Lan Baoshi [31]

Science Press


Practice of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Huang Xiaojun [32]

People’s Medical Publishing House


Clinical Progress of Stem Cell Therapy

Han Zhongchao [33]

Tianjin Science and Technology Translation Publishing Co., Ltd

Table 4

Main monographs of tissue engineering published in China




Publishing Company


Tissue Engineering

Yang Zhiming [34]

Chemical Industry Press


Repair of Medicine and Tissue Engineering

Lao Weide [35]

Chemical Industry Press


Principles and Protocol of Tissue Engineering

Jin Yan [36]

Fourth Military Medical University Press


The Theory and Practice of Tissue Engineering

Cao Yilin [37]

Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers


Basic and Clinic Research on Tissue Engineering

Yang Zhiming [38]

Sichuan Scientific and Technological Press


Tissue Engineering: A Laboratory Manual

Pei Guoxian, Wei Kuanhai, Jin Dan [39]

Military Medical Science Press


Tissue Engineering

Cao Yilin [40]

Science Press


Tissue Engineering of Skin

Wu Jinjin, ZhuYoutang [41]

Military Medical Science Press


Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

Xiong Dangsheng [42]

Science Press


Stem Cell Tissue Engineering: Basic Theory and Clinical Application

Wang Dianliang [43]

Science Press


Introduction to Human Tissue Engineering

Guan Guangju, Jiang Duyin [44]

Shandong University Press


Fabrication and Structure Performance of Biodegradable Tissue Engineering Scaffolds

Cui Zhixiang [45]

National Defence Industry Press


Medical Polysaccharide Material

Dan Huaping [46]

Science Press

International collaboration and opportunities for RM in China

Open and cooperative regulations are basic in China. Since 2005, China has cooperated with many countries that are advanced in RM at different levels. Six world-renowned comprehensive RM research institutions from Germany, the USA, Canada, Spain, and The Netherlands established a Regenerative Medicine Coalition (RMC) to jointly promote the research and innovation of RM therapy at cellular levels (Table 5). Even some large foreign pharmaceutical companies, such as General Electric and Sanofi-Aventis, have invested in China for stem cell-related research and achieved relevant results ( [47, 48]. Also, the use of theories and skills of RM in military medicine is one of the important fields in the future [49].
Table 5

Collaborations between China and other countries in regenerative medicine research

Country of collaboration





Institute of Zoology (IOZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research


The Chinese-French Joint Laboratory of Biology of Embryonic Cells of Mammals



Sino-Australia Center of Excellence for Stem Cell Science



Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories (MISCL) was awarded a federal government grant to establish a joint Australia-China Centre for Excellence in Stem Cell Science with Peking University.


The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research signed a memorandum of understanding.



The Committee of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the UK Medical Research Council signed a memorandum of cooperation.


Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) and Peking University Stem Cell Research Center (PKUSCRC) established a national international joint research center.


UK Medical Research Council and the National Natural Science Fund Committee cooperated to jointly fund a stem cell research project.



The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) signed an agreement to collaborate on stem cell research.



The National Natural Science Fund Committee and the German Science Foundation cooperated to jointly fund a stem cell research project.


Great demands in RM are not only in China but also in the world. Their theories and key skills or products are used not only in peacetime but also in military field [49]. The Chinese government attaches great importance to this field, and vigorous investments from the government and companies may accelerate the progress in basic research and translational application. Innovation and international cooperation will be emphasized in future studies. Other sound administrative system, laws, technical specifications, and guidelines are very important in pushing their healthy and orderly development.



This study was supported in part by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (81121004, 81230041, 81171812, 81272105, and 81171798) and the National Basic Science and Development Programme (973 Program, 2012CB518105) and National Science and Technology Major Project (2011ZXJ07104B-03B).

Authors’ contributions

BC and XF conceived and designed the project, collected and analyzed the data, and participated in the writing process. SL participated in data collection. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

College of Life Sciences, Medical College of PLA, General Hospital of PLA, Beijing, 100853, People’s Republic of China
The Key Laboratory of Trauma Treatment & Tissue Repair of Tropical Area, PLA, Guangzhou, 510010, People’s Republic of China
Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200025, People’s Republic of China
Chinese Academy of Engineering (Division of Medical and Health), College of Life Sciences, Medical College of PLA, General Hospital of PLA, 28 Fu Xian Road, Beijing, 100853, People’s Republic of China


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