Claire Bennet of Heroes can no longer claim to be the only one with the ability to grow back a broken limb. Thanks to recent advancements in technology finger regeneration is now a reality. Re-growing severed fingertips is now possible without having to worry about the patient’s body rejecting the new finger. The even more amazing thing about the new technology used is that all that is needed is a sprinkle of the “magic powder” on the sliced off finger!
The “magic powder” used to regrow fingers is actually composed mostly of collagen mixed with the extracellular matrix extracted from pig bladder. An extracellular matrix is the material that surrounds the cells . This material is not part of the animal cell but it does determine the properties of the cell tissue. It is composed of fibrous elements, link proteins, and space filling molecules. According to Dr. Steven Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine what the mixture does is to simply “tell the body [to] start the process of tissue regrowth.”
The pig bladder extract (ACell Vet) is actually marketed by a company called Acell Inc but is used to treat tendon and ligament injuries in horses. Other applications of the product include treatment of urinary incontinence, hoof and hoof wall injuries, de-gloving injuries, corneal ulcers, dental extractions, burns, and more. All of these applications, however, are meant to treat animals. The good news is that with all the recent happenings the FDA has finally approved ACell Vet for human use.
Due to the success of the the extract when it comes to human finger regeneration there is much excitement and lots of speculation flying around as to what this can mean for the field of regenrative medicine. According to Associated Press “the lessons learned from studying regrowth of fingers and limbs could aid the larger field of regenerative medicine, perhaps someday helping people replace damaged parts of their hearts and spinal cords, and heal wounds and burns with new skin instead of scar tissue.” How true. Who knows maybe the regeneration of entire limbs is just around the corner. A thing that would help thousands of people who lose limbs in accidents and in war.