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Veterans’ Lives Permanently Changed After Returning from War

For veterans returning from combat, their lives our permanently changed.  For some, that includes physical change such as the loss of limbs or shrapnel debris buried deep within muscles.  That’s what happened to Ron Strang, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, who was in the vicinity of a primitive land mine that exploded.  That mine buried shrapnel into his left thigh, destroying most of it and leaving him unable to enjoy activities such as swimming, running or hiking.  However, things changed when Strang met researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers Use New Method to Regrow Muscle Tissue in Wounded Vets

Researchers Stephen Badylak and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh recently published an article in the journal Science Transnational Medicine detailing an experimental technique they discovered that can regrow muscle tissue.  Badylak and his colleagues discovered that wounded muscles responded to an injection of a substance that normally surrounds cells–the extracellular matrix.  Badylak says that the extracellular matrix can be thought of as the “glue” that holds all the cells together, and decided that he would surgically transplant a quilt of matrix from pigs’ bladders into the legs of patients whose muscle tissue had been destroyed.  

Veterans Benefit from Experimental Therapy to Regrow Muscle

Although Strang thought his idea sounded a little far-fetched at first, he has had great success in some patients.  He has helped about a dozen patients so far.  One of those vets was considering amputation of his leg after having undergone 30 surgeries already to try to repair it with no luck.  That patient now rides bikes and can do jumping jacks, according to Badylak.  Strang’s recovery hasn’t been quite as remarkable, but it is amazing nonetheless.  Although he isn’t jumping around, his limp is now gone, he can walk without a cane, he doesn’t fall anymore, and he can even run for short spurts.   As for Badylak, he is hopeful that he can continue to help more patients and perhaps one day the treatment will become a widespread medical technique to restore destroyed muscle tissue.

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