Regrow Lost Limbs

This article is pretty cool.

NEW YORK – Researchers are trying to find ways to regrow fingers — and someday, even limbs — with tricks that sound like magic spells from a
Harry Potter novel.There’s the guy who sliced off a fingertip but grew it back, after he treated the wound with an extract of pig bladder. And the scientists who grow extra arms on salamanders. And the laboratory mice with the eerie ability to heal themselves.

This summer, scientists are planning to see whether the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers. And a large federally funded project is trying to unlock the secrets of how some animals regrow body parts so well, with hopes of applying the the lessons to humans.

Take a look at this:

Up to about age 2, people can consistently regrow fingertips, says Dr. Stephen Badylak, a regeneration expert at the University of Pittsburgh. But that’s rare in adults, he said.

Spievack, however, did have a major advantage — a brother, Alan, a former Harvard surgeon who’d founded a company called ACell Inc., that makes an extract of pig bladder for promoting healing and tissue regeneration.

It helps horses regrow ligaments, for example, and the federal government has given clearance to market it for use in people. Similar formulations have been used in many people to do things like treat ulcers and other wounds and help make cartilage.

The summer before Lee Spievack’s accident, Dr. Alan Spievack had used it on a neighbor who’d cut his fingertip off on a tablesaw. The man’s fingertip grew back over four to six weeks, Alan Spievack said.

Lee Spievack took his brother’s advice to forget about a skin graft and try the pig powder.

Soon a shipment of the stuff arrived and Lee Spievack started applying it every two days. Within four weeks his finger had regained its original length, he says, and in four months “it looked like my normal finger.”

Spievack said it’s a little hard, as if calloused, and there’s a slight scar on the end. The nail continues to grow at twice the speed of his other nails.

“All my fingers in this cold weather have cracked except that one,” he said.

All in all, he said, “I’m quite impressed.”

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  1. Jack's Shack February 22, 2007 at 8:07 am

    You have a good attitude about it.

  2. Mark February 21, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    “It would have made a difference for so many people.”

    Yeah. Not me, though. I have too much fun with mine!

  3. Jack's Shack February 21, 2007 at 5:04 am


    That sounds interesting.


    Fried fingertips are bad for your heart. As for brain cells, well that is a good question. I shall ruminate upon it.


    It would have made a difference for so many people.


    Careful is their watchword. Just ask them.



  4. BaconEating AtheistJew February 20, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    It is a miracle. Praise Jeebus.

  5. Elie February 20, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Later on in the article it discussed using salamander extracts, as salamanders are expert at regrowing limbs. As soon as my son and I saw that we both said “sounds familiar!”

    They’s better be careful is all I can say!

  6. Mark February 20, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    I wish they’d had this twenty years ago…

  7. The Babka Nosher February 20, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Two questions…

    Is it kosher? Not that you’d eat your fingertip…

    Can they use it to regrow brain cells that may have been lost during a very fun youth?? I could really use those back!

  8. Liorah-Lleucu February 20, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Porcine (pig) models are often used in pharmaceutical research due to tissue and antigen similarities with humans. A long time ago when I worked in a pharmaceutical research laboratory, a neighboring laboratory (collaboratively working with our lab) was developing a porcine model for (treating) cardiac restenosis following angioplasty. Their lab was involved in developing the porcine model, while we were involved in inflammation research and cell-cell interactions. In other words, we were developing the “potion” to prevent cardiac restenosis (among other things) and they were developing the animal model to test it in.

    So, I’m not surprised by this new development really.

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