It may be possible to rebuild human leg muscles using a tissue scaffold, researchers say.
An experimental treatment using a pig bladder could help people who have lost a substantial portion of a muscle, researchers say.
In an initial trial, researchers worked with five men in their late 20s and early 30s, who all had old injuries that had destroyed between 58 and 90 percent of one of their leg muscles. Two of the men were veterans who had been in explosions; two had been in skiing accidents, and one had an exercise-induced injury. All five were missing parts of the quadriceps, or the muscle on the outside of the shin, called the anterior tibial compartment.
The treatment involved a pig bladder that had been stripped of its cells, leaving only a scaffold made of tough proteins. In surgery, the doctors removed the scar tissue from the men's remaining muscle, then applied the scaffold to the area, which signaled stem cells within the muscle to develop into muscle themselves.
"Biological scaffolds, when they degrade, release signal molecules," said Dr. Stephen Badylak, of the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study. "They can tell cells to do things like divide and line up in a certain way."
The patients were monitored for several months while getting physical therapy. Three of the five patients improved enough for the doctors to call the operation a success; these patients could perform certain tasks such as standing on one leg. The other two men showed less or no benefit, according to the results detailed today (April 30) in the journal Science Translational Medicine. [7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]
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