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Pigs Help Scientists Grow Back Lost Human Muscle In The Seriously Injured

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DENVER (CBS4) – A breakthrough in the lab has pigs helping people as scientists are able to grow back muscle for seriously injured patients using material from the animals.

Nick Clark’s lower left leg was badly damaged in a skiing accident nearly 10 years ago.

Nick Clark shows off his leg with lost muscle (credit: CBS)

Nick Clark shows off his leg with lost muscle (credit: CBS)

“Because of complications of that severe break there was a lot of internal bleeding inside these muscle compartments and that caused swelling,” Clark said.

He lost large amounts of muscle.

“I couldn’t push off my left foot at all. I had no balance,” Clark said.

He was one of five patients who tested a new stem cell technique using material from pigs.

“We can take the type of injury that normally would form nothing other than scar tissue and form a brand new skeletal muscle that’s functional, that contracts,” Dr. Steve Badylak with the Department of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

Thin sheets of scaffolding-like material derived from pig bladders are implanted. Intense physical therapy coaxes the patients’ stem cells to settle on the injury and grow new muscle.

“They get these signals. They say, ‘Okay, I get it, I’m supposed to line up like this,’ and they recruit their own new blood supply, their own new nerves, and they basically start forming new tissue this way,” Badylak said. “This is a major step forward.”

Clark got the experimental therapy in 2012.

“I wanted to try it. I wanted to see if it works for me and I’m happy that it has,” he said.

Clark says his balance is better, he can put weight on his leg, and even jump.

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