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CTDL 105: Sure NOW they can regrow finger tips

But a few years ago when I sliced off the tip of my left index finger while cutting lettuce (some people claim I’ll do anything to get out of a baby shower) all they did for me was dip it in painful betadine (how do you spell that word?) solution and tell me to suck it up and let it heal over.

Three years ago, Lee Spievack sliced off the tip of his finger in the propeller of a hobby shop airplane.

What happened next, Andrews reports, propelled him into the future of medicine. Spievack’s brother, Alan, a medical research scientist, sent him a special powder and told him to sprinkle it on the wound.

“I powdered it on until it was covered,” Spievack recalled.

To his astonishment, every bit of his fingertip grew back.

“Your finger grew back,” Andrews asked Spievack, “flesh, blood, vessels and nail?”

“Four weeks,” he answered.

Andrews spoke to Dr. Steven Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and asked if that powder was the reason behind Spievack’s new finger tip.

“Yes, it is,” Badylak explained. “We took this and turned it into a powdered form.”

That powder is a substance made from pig bladders called extracellular matrix. It is a mix of protein and connective tissue surgeons often use to repair tendons and it holds some of the secrets behind the emerging new science of regenerative medicine.

[From Medicine's Cutting Edge: Re-Growing Organs, The Future Is Here: Regenerative Powder, Ink Jet Heart Cells And Custom-Made Body Parts - CBS News]

Of course if they had pitched it as “let me put some powdered pig bladder on your finger” I may have balked even then.

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One Comment

  1. admin wrote:

    BBC had an article on this recently talking about some medical skepticism of this based on what sounded like pretty sound science. So maybe I won’t go chopping off my fingers willy nilly after all.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink

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