Experiencing a serious personal injury is often unexpected and quite traumatic. And if that injury involves loss of part of a limb, it can cause disfigurement and partial disability. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could grow “new limbs” like salamanders and starfish can? Well, as a matter a fact, scientists and doctors have jointly created a powder that when rubbed on the injured part of the hand, actually grows a new finger. Sounds unbelievable? Even the doctors are amazed!
In May of this year a young army sergeant named Shiloh Harris underwent a history making surgery in Texas. The young wounded veteran lost his finger due to bomb attack in Iraq. The doctors applied a specially-formulated powder to what was left of his finger and the results are very encouraging and his finger is slowly growing back.
The powder is actually taken from the adult stem cells within the pig’s bladder. The powder is then classified as an extra cellular matrix and attracts our normal cells and therefore encourages new cell growth-just like a salamander.
All bodies have stem cells and in our mother’s womb, it was our stem cells that grew our fingers, toes, organs, etc. The stem cell growth ended at the time we were born but they don’t go away or die. Researchers believe that in some way, this new “pig dust” or “pixie dust” as it is nicknamed, can put our cells back to work.
Another one of the first test cases was a man that had cut off a part of finger on a propeller blade. Within just four weeks he was not only able to grow back some skin, but he also grew blood vessels and a nail on his finger. This is truly amazing medical science at work.
This new technique is part of a major study in the science of “regenerative medicine” The alliance that funds this project is called the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, or AFIRM. It consists of over 250 doctors and researcher at over 30 universities and hospitals, including the National Institutes of Health, Veteran Administration and several military services. This first research phase is called “put people back together” and is aimed at helping our returning injured vets.
As with many breakthroughs that come forth from military research, one day if all goes well we will have this technology available to us in the private sector. As with all science, it takes funding and stem cell research is a hot button issue with this administration.
Scientists have been able to grow bladders, blood vessels, livers, and rat hearts. It is only a matter of time states AFIRM, that they will be able to reconstruct muscles, skin, tendons, ears and noses. They envision the day that they will be able to replace injured organs and limbs right there on the battlefield. In the meantime, the alliance is attracting private sources of money in case of political roadblocks. In addition there are still long-term questions left unanswered, but the medical community is surprised and encouraged by the recent events.
Perhaps in the future it will be routine to regrow body parts in the emergency room, but until then, stay focused and keep safe while driving and enjoying your freedom.