Medical Minute 11-5: Regenerating Lost Body Parts

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Marine Corporal Isaias Hernandez credits a television with saving his life- and a cutting- edge biologic powder- with giving him a second chance.

Isaias was returning to his convoy in Iraq holding a TV. It doubled as a shield and protected his vital organs during a sudden mortar attack.

"Pretty much anything that wasn't covered, arms and legs was hit."

He lost ninety percent of the muscle in his right leg.

"Standing up from a sitting position; I would have to pop up. I would have to fall into the seat, rather than just sitting in it," said Cpl. Isaias Hernandez.

Dozens of surgeries to repair the muscle didn't work. So Isaias agreed to an experimental procedure to regenerate his quadriceps. Researchers are testing a material they call the extracellular matrix or ECM. It's a biologic compound made from harvested pig bladder. When doctors place the powder or patch near a wound, it dissolves quickly, and signals to the human body to begin generating new cells. The ECM forms the framework that cells latch onto as they divide, and reform functioning tissue and muscle.

"That's the thing that we're the most excited about. How the new tissue integrates into the remaining tissue that's present," said Steve Badylak, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.D., Professor of Surgery at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at University of Pittsburgh.

Two months after surgery, a scan showed new muscle growth. Eighteen months later, about twenty percent of his missing quad is back. Corporal Hernandez wants to improve enough to remain on active duty.

"I went there on deployment, but I wasn't able to finish it. I want to do at least one tour, if I can, before it's all over," said Cpl. Isaias Hernandez.

For More Information, call (407) 740-0789 ext. 579

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