Building and rebuilding bodies sounds straight out of fiction, like Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein or American action movie Robocop - but it’s a very serious line of medicine being explored at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennysylvania.
“We can grow the whole human in nine months,” says Dr Stephen Badylak from the university, in the video below from Science Channel. “All we really need to do is figure out how to grow a part of that human.”
And it’s the humble pig that scientists turned to for regenerative material. The idea behind using pigs for reforming limbs and organs in people comes from that pigs' heart valves have been used for years in humans with a minimal chance of their body rejecting the foreign matter.
Pigs’ bladders are a waste material when pigs are slaughtered, so it’s cheap and easily available. Scraping away layers of tissue reveals the extracellular matrix, which is like a scaffold in all animals, including humans.
“The extracellular matrix is the glue that holds cells together in every tissue and organ of your body,” explains Badylak. “And it gives instructions to the cells, and the cells, in turn, give instructions to the matrix.”
The tissue is then cleaned and dried, to be formed into strips or ground into powder, which can then be used as medicinal powder for an injured person.
“Instead of the body thinking ‘Injury? Alright, let’s form a scar,’ the body says ‘Alright, injury? Let’s rebuild’," explains Badylak. “And the matrix helps to jumpstart it in the ‘Let’s rebuild’ pathway.”
If you think this wonder medicine is absolute nonsense, it’s already been put to use on humans.
One of the Lee’s fingers was severed by a model airplane in 2005. He was sent a vial of the powdered material, which he sprinkled onto the nub of his missing finger. He was surprised when his missing finger completely regrew with no defects or discoloration and with a whole fingernail attached.
Check out the video below from Science Channel about the miracle marvel of the pig’s bladder.
[H/T: Science Channel]