On a cloudy morning in the Tokyo suburb of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Yoshiyuki Sankai points excitedly to a slide of severed spinal cords. They belong to rats, and he has used cell technology to help reconnect the nerves.

A multimillionaire whose robot company, Cyberdyne Inc., went public last year, Sankai is researching ways to repair damaged body tissue. The 57-year-old scientist's vision: to treat patients with spinal injuries by using stem-cell related technology to repair nerve connections and robotic suits that aid movement.

His plans are getting a boost from new policies promoted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who pushed liberalization of rules to make Japan one of the world's quickest places to get regenerative therapy on the market. Now Japanese corporations spanning the pharmaceutical and industrial sectors have regenerative medicine on their agendas, and industry groups estimate the domestic market for these therapies could top ¥3 trillion by 2050.