Regrowing Fingers Using Pig Bladders

Lee Spievak regrew his fingers from powdered big bladders. While tinkering with his model airplane two years ago, Spievak accidently sliced a half inch off of the middle finger on his right hand — nail and all — in the propeller. Doctors told him he'd never get it back, but his brother Alan sent him some powder derived from a pig bladder. Spievak rubbed the powder on the stub every day for a month and the finger grew back. In four months, the nail was also back, fully formed (pictured). Find out how below.

Turns out Alan Spievak worked in regenerative medicine, and was familiar with Stephen Badylak's work at the University of Pittsburgh. Toiling in the lab, Badylak figured out that extra cellular matrix from a pig bladder (the stuff leftover when bladder cells are washed away), is chock full of biochemical signals that prevent scarring from stunting cells' regenerative tendencies. But he'd never used it on people, so when Spievak rubbed the powder on the nub of his finger, it was untested. But it worked, and an article on the BBC website has got the video to prove it. The question is: how much of a limb or organ could we one day regrow with the stuff?

From the BBC story:

If they can perfect the technique, it might mean one day they could repair not just a severed finger, but severely burnt skin, or even damaged organs . . . They hope soon to start a clinical trial in Buenos Aires on a woman who has cancer of the oesophagus. The normal procedure in such cases is often deadly. Doctors remove the cancerous portion and try to stretch the stomach lining up to meet the shortened oesophagus. In the trial they will place the extra cellular matrix inside the body from where the portion of oesophagus has been removed, and hope to stimulate the cells around it to re-grow the missing portion.

So could limbs be re-grown? Dr Badylak is cautious, but believes the technology is potentially revolutionary.

"I think that within ten years that we will have strategies that will re-grow the bones, and promote the growth of functional tissue around those bones. And that is a major step towards eventually doing the entire limb."

As Speivak says, there's only one downside. "The nail grows so fast I have to cut it every two days. Because yeah, this [whole hand] is sixty-nine years old and this [finger tip] is only two years old."

Source: BBC via PopSci

Image: Daily Mail