CBS Evening News highlighted the work of several McGowan Institute researchers and characterized these pioneering studies as the “Holy Grail of Healing” of regenerative medicine. The innovative work of McGowan Institute researchers—Drs. Stephen Badylak, Jorge Gerlach, William Wagner, and Joon Sup Lee—was featured in the coverage.
Beginning with the re-grown, now 2-year-old fingertip of Lee Spievak, Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD, Deputy Director of the McGowan Institute, discussed extracellular matrix (ECM)—a medical product derived from pig bladders that has been demonstrated to regenerate tissue. Dr. Badylak believes ECM mobilizes cells, some of them adult stem cells whose job it is to maintain and repair injured tissue.
Steven Wolf, PhD, U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research, San Antonio, hopes that this technology can be used by the Army to one day re-grow limbs, lost muscle, even burned skin of injured soldiers. Dr. Wolf asks, “Is there any way we can make that grow back? Some of that technology exists and now it’s time to field it.” Currently, the Army is working with Dr. Badylak and his ECM technology on the amputated fingers of soldiers home from the war. The Army also hopes the work of Jorge Gerlach, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, on the development of an alternative approach to mend skin damaged by burns and abrasion-type injuries through the use of a spray gun and bioreactor will be available soon to soldiers.
Presented also during the segment was the advanced tissue engineering and stem cell therapy work relative to the heart. Noted was the work of William Wagner, PhD, Deputy Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine—an artificial scaffold patch that some day may be used to repair scar tissue on the cardiac muscle following a heart attack. Once the scar tissue on the cardiac muscle is removed and replaced with the artificial scaffold patch, it will grow new cardiac tissue and restore functional cardiac muscle. Stem cell therapy injections into the heart was explained by Joon Sup Lee, MD, Clinical Director of the Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in conjunction with a patient who recently received injections of her own stem cells in hopes of growing new heart arteries.
These are only a few of the programs led by Institute researchers who are working to create new therapies utilizing tissue engineering and cellular therapies. The CBS program shared the long term vision that some day we may be able to have re-grown limbs to replace prosthetics, when re-grown tissues replace surgery, and when the body does its healing with its own cells from within.
Dr. Badylak is also Professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Wagner is also Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lee is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Associate Chief in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.