Regenerative medicine uses clinical procedures to repair or replace damaged or diseased tissue and organs vs. some of the traditional therapies that are designed to just treat the symptoms. In Pitt Magazine, Holden Slattery recently reported on the progress being made by patients enrolled in a University of Pittsburgh-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study that tests a new approach to significant muscle loss.
Co-led by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty members Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD, Professor in the Department of Surgery, a Deputy Director of the McGowan Institute, and Director of the Center for Pre-Clinical Tissue Engineering within the Institute, and J. Peter Rubin, MD, Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery, UPMC Endowed Professor of Plastic Surgery, and Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, the research team uses extracellular matrix (ECM) from a pig’s bladder to regenerate diminished skeletal muscle. ECM is the remaining tissue after all the cells have been removed from the pig’s bladder. Dr. Badylak has been researching the effects of ECM since 1987. This study is the first to utilize ECM to replace and regenerate muscle tissue.
In each of the study’s five surgeries, scar tissue from the damaged leg muscles was removed and ECM was placed near healthy muscle. Within months, mature skeletal muscle cells emerged at the site of the ECM placement, along with other cells that appeared to be actively regenerating into skeletal muscle cells. Eventually, the ECM dissolved leaving only healthy muscle tissue.
Three of the five patients have shown a 20% or greater improvement in strength of the injured leg. The results haven’t only shown dramatic improvement on physical tests. The participants are now engaging in a range of activities including running, bicycling, playing soccer, and even skiiing—activities they couldn’t enjoy before their surgery.
“We love science, and we’re very interesting in these stem cells,” Dr. Badylak says. “But at the end of the day the story is incomplete without the impact on patients’ daily activities.”
Illustration: Regenerative medicine patient Sgt. Ronald Strang. –Pitt Magazine.
Abstract (An acellular biologic scaffold promotes skeletal muscle formation in mice and humans with volumetric muscle loss. B. M. Sicari, J. P. Rubin, C. L. Dearth, M. T. Wolf, F. Ambrosio, M. Boninger, N. J. Turner, D. J. Weber, T. W. Simpson, A. Wyse, E. H. Brown, J. L. Dziki, L. E. Fisher, S. Brown, S. F. Badylak. Science Translational Medicine; 6, 234ra58, 2014.)