Scientists have been exploring ways to coax the regeneration of certain body parts as this would prove beneficial to individuals who lost vital parts of their body such as their arms or limbs in an accident or injury. A new experiment funded by the United States Defense Department, may soon make it possible for scientists to regrow various parts of the body.
Brian Sicari, of the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, and his colleagues announced on Wednesday that they successfully conducted an experiment that spurred the regeneration of lost muscle tissue in five people who had traumatic injuries including two soldiers who sustained major injuries in their leg muscles from bombs.
What's notable with the experimental treatment used is that it used a material known as "extracellular matrix" from the pig's bladder. The extracellular matrix, or EMC, is the non-cellular component found in the tissues and organs of multicellular organisms which provides support for living tissues.
Once it degrades, the EMC produces chemical compounds that attract stem cells, the undifferentiated cells that have the ability to develop into different kinds of cells. When the EMC was implanted into the wound site, the patient's stem cells were prompted to become muscle cells and regrow lost tissues.
The treatment, which was described by the researchers in their study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine April 30, was tested on only five human participants but the results suggested that the treatment could give hope to soldiers who sustained major war injuries.
"While the number of patients was small, we were very encouraged by the data," said study researcher Peter Rubin, a professor of plastic surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. "We were seeing very dramatic improvements in quality of life for some of our patients."
The researchers reported that after the EMCs were implanted into the legs of the patients, the legs of three of the five patients became at least 20 percent stronger six months after their surgery. The functionality of their legs also improved by 25 percent. Although two of the participants also had improvements, the researchers said that they did not meet the study's standards for success.
"Biologic scaffolds composed of naturally occurring extracellular matrix (ECM) can provide a microenvironmental niche that alters the default healing response toward a constructive and functional outcome," the researchers wrote. "The ECM-mediated constructive remodeling was associated with stimulus-responsive skeletal muscle in rodents and functional improvement in three of the five human patients."