Marine Corporal Isaias Hernandez lost 70 per cent of his right thigh muscles in the blast, an injury so severe that amputation is normally the only treatment.
Corporal Hernandez was, however, offered a therapy in which his remaining muscles were impregnated with an experimental growth promoting substance extracted from pig bladders. It prompted the muscles to regenerate to a point that Corporal Hernandez has regained most of his strength.
The significance of the breakthrough is that skeletal muscle, the kind found in arms and legs, does not normally regenerate after an injury or accident.
The US government poured $70 million into regenerative medicine research, and Corporal Hernandez is one of the first to benefit from that.
Corporal Hernandez first undertook a fitness regime to build up his existing muscle, then surgeons cut open his thigh and inserted a thin slice of a substance known as extracellular matrix. After a few weeks Corporal Hernandez found his leg rapidly growing in bulk and strength.
Stephen F. Badylak and J. Peter Rubin at Pitt are working with funding from the Defense Department to develop an implantable extracellular matrix that can re-grow tissue. The matrix is a biological scaffold, enriched with proteins and growth factors, which recruits stem cells and other cell precursors to the site of the injury, according to the McGowan Institute’s website. The therapy stimulates further tissue regeneration, essentially rebuilding the lost muscle.
Researchers at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, who were able to seed his remaining muscles with a cocktail of proteins and growth factors derived from pig bladders, the Australian reports.
A previous report in 2010, the injection of extracellular matrix, or ECM, a naturally made cell scaffold that recruits stem cells to injury sites to regrow normal tissue rather than scars. The result was a 12 percent to 15 percent increase in muscle mass and a similar increase in strength.