After over a decade of war, there are thousands of wounded and maimed veterans that decades ago would find themselves without hope for healing. However, during the past decade, the options available to wounded troops have grown. There have been remarkable breakthroughs in prosthetics, treatments for TBI, and now doctors in cities across the country are attempting to replace lost tissue for soldiers.
In Pittsburgh, PA, Doctor Peter Rubin led a study at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that resulted in the use of tissue from a pig to regrow the thigh muscle of Sgt. Ron Strang who was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The material from the pig was the extracelluar matrix of muscle tissue. Previously thought as just the framework for muscle, it was discovered that this matrix also signals to the body to regrow and repair this tissue. Eventually this matrix broke down and his body began to use stem cells to regrow the limb muscle. The UPMC Center for Innovation in Restorative Medicine (CIRM) partnered with the Department of Defense to offer new breakthrough therapies to wounded warriors like Sgt. Strang.
This is spectacular news for soldiers or any patient who has suffered severe muscle or tissue damage. This process can be used to regrow muscles, ears, or any organ for which there is a compatible human or animal donor. Strang is the first of an 80-person study that will seek to repeat the success for others injured in this manner. Also, a team of scientists from Boston are preparing to attempt something similar by transplanting ears grown in a lab that started from a matrix taken from sheep’s ears.
by Joshua M. Patton
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