Posted on August 10, 2011 at 2:54 PM
Wednesday, Aug 10 at 6:43 PM
SAN ANTONIO -- The brave new world of regenerative medicine is helping create entirely new ways to heal injuries. One approach showing promise is a method to regrow muscle.
Thousands of U.S. troops have been maimed by attacks and explosions in the war on terror. Corporal Isaias Hernandez is one of them. His right leg was mangled in 2004 in Iraq. He lost 70% of his thigh muscle.
“The whole thing was gone,” Hernandez explained. “You could see the femur.”
Hernandez was one of the first to try a radical therapy to spark his body to regrow the lost tissue and function. Using what’s called extracellular matrix from a pig, his body recruited its own stem cells to regrow muscle, nerves and vessels.
“A few days after the surgery, there was some twitching, some spasming, some tingling that wasn’t there before,” he said. “And then in a few weeks, I started seeing better results in physical therapy.”
Regenerative medicine pioneer Dr. Stephen Badylak explained the biologic implant as the glue that holds the cells together, a scaffolding with a plan.
“And what the plan involves is using your own stem cells,” Badylak, of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, stated. “It recruits them to the site and then tells those cells what to do.”
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center in San Antonio announced it is getting into the regenerative medicine business, providing donated cells and tissue to researchers all over the globe. The venture is called GenCure.
“GenCure’s mission is to provide state-of-the-art cells and tissues for regenerative medicine applications in clinical practice as well as in clinical trials and research,” said Mary Beth Fisk, interim president and CEO of South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.
“It’s actually forward thinking to have it be based in a company that traditionally supplies cells and tissue,” Badylak added.
Volunteer donors will be asked to consent if they are willing to have their cells or tissue used for research.
The U.S. government is investing tens of millions of dollars into regenerative medicine research.
Hernandez is one of the wounded warriors who is benefiting. His goal is to get back to active duty and re-deploy.