Researchers had the idea of giving wounded muscle cells a healing boost with a substance that normally surrounds cells — the extracellular matrix. “The matrix can be thought of simply as the glue that holds all of the different cells in different tissues together,” Badylak says. “However, in addition, there are all these hidden signals in the matrix that instruct the cells on what to do.
They surgically transplanting a quilt of matrix cells derived from pig bladders into the legs of patients whose muscles had been partially destroyed. He started with five patients — Strang and four other men who were disabled despite the best physical therapy and the best that medicine had to offer.
Before the experimental treatment, “some of them could not get out of a chair without help,” Badylak says. “Some of them walked with a cane. … This was not just a mild loss of strength. They had real problems.”
After successful treatment with the matrix, one patient “now [rides] mountain bikes and does jumping jacks.”
Another patients recovery hasn’t been quite that dramatic. But his limp is gone. He can walk without a cane and hardly ever falls anymore. In short spurts, he can even run.
They have treated about a dozen patients, and have plans to try the technique with dozens more, hoping that, if all goes well, many doctors will be able to use the same approach to help many more patients whose muscles have been destroyed.
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 present study showed similarities in the remodeling characteristics of xenogeneic ECM scaffolds when used as a surgical treatment for volumetric muscle loss in both a preclinical rodent model and five male patients. Porcine urinary bladder ECM scaffold implantation was associated with perivascular stem cell mobilization and accumulation within the site of injury, and de novo formation of skeletal muscle cells. The ECM-mediated constructive remodeling was associated with stimulus-responsive skeletal muscle in rodents and functional improvement in three of the five human patients.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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