Feb
27
2016

Orthopedics Without A Knife

Dr. Fields gave a talk in Las Vegas about orthopedics without a knife. His talk took place at the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 12, 2015 in Las Vegas. Dr. Fields gave a talk entitled “Regenerative orthopedics – non-surgical repair with stem cells/PRP/prolotherapy”. In essence the talk was about alternative treatments to surgeries in orthopedic medicine.

Dr. Peter Fields, MD, DC is a board certified medical physician and chiropractor. He is also the director of the Pacific Prolotherapy & Medical Wellness Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Introduction

Joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint capsules control the movements in joints. Due to injuries and wear and tear these body parts can have a lack of function, which will lead to pain and disorders. The result can be weak, torn or damaged ligaments and tendons, arthritic changes, excessive joint motion, increased pressure, and a decrease in range of motion.

This is the common treatment cycle in medicine

Joint pain prompts you to see the doctor. You are told it is arthritis, and you get non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID’s). You come back with more pain, and you’ll get a stronger NSAID prescription. Eventually a cortisone injection is given, which helps for a few months, but then the pain reoccurs. The doctor arranges for an MRI scan. A referral to an orthopedic surgeon is likely to be the next step, and an arthroscopy (pinhole surgery) is arranged. In that case, if this does not resolve the pain, surgery like a knee replacement or hip replacement is suggested.

Common sayings when traditional medicine has nothing to offer

You may have heard some of these common sayings before. “Nothing more we can do about it!” -“I suggest you learn to live with it”- “You should never play that sport again!”- “Take these pain medications” and “The only alternative is surgery!”

The problem is, that none of these pieces of advice are really helpful. This type of approach does not treat the cause; it is directed against symptoms.

How to treat the cause?

Prolotherapy

Prolotherapy is a natural, non-surgical method to assist the body to heal torn soft tissues. It works in cases like torn ligaments, damaged tendons, cartilage, menisci or a torn labrum in the shoulder. Hyperosmolar dextrose solution is injected into the injured area. This stimulates the body’s healing forces and the body repairs what is damaged. More information is found here. In essence, prolotherapy fixes the cause, not just the effect; it heals, and it is permanent. Prolotherapy strengthens tissues, relieves pain and increases the range of motion in joints. There is 80 to 85% full pain relief and more than 80% improvement in range of motion. Prolotherapy promotes the healing of torn or damaged ligaments and tendons.

Conditions suitable for treatment with prolotherapy

Suitable conditions for treatment with prolotherapy are sports injuries, muscle tears, arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, sciatica, TMJ problems, and fibromyalgia. Common areas treated with prolotherapy are the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, neck, lower back and elbow. Dr. Fields showed MRI scans before and after prolotherapy treatments of ligament injuries within the knee and of shoulder ligament tears before and after treatment. Normally the physician expected these injuries to require surgery. But all that was done was one or two injections (prolotherapy treatments) with reactivation of the affected joint. There were astonishing results shown with MRI’s before and after herniated disc injuries and how they healed in a relatively short time following prolotherapy.

PRP prolotherapy

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a tool from regenerative medicine to amplify the healing response in connection with stem cell therapies .  The lab technician takes blood from the patient and subsequently spins it down in a centrifuge. The platelet rich fraction (PRP) contains all of the growth factors, which have the healing power of the blood. The physicians combines this with prolotherapy to make healing even more successful. This is particularly useful for labral tears in shoulders, meniscus tears in knees and other localized injuries.

Stem cell prolotherapy

Stem cell therapy has been the gold standard for repairing more serious problems. Dr. Fields combines stem cell therapy with prolotherapy to treat more serious injuries like end stage arthritis.  This is the case when bone rubs on bone, where conventional orthopedic medicine would offer a joint replacement in the hip or knee. Stem cell prolotherapy can repair any joint that has cartilage damage. A severe meniscus tear in a knee or a severe labrum tear in a shoulder would also be situations where stem cell prolotherapy is superior to surgery or to just using prolotherapy alone.

Here is a description of the procedure

Before the patient’s procedure the physician first harvests bone marrow stem cells by way of a pelvic bone aspirate; secondly the physician obtains mesenchymal stem cells from fatty tissue by aspiration of abdominal fat. A cell separator provides the stem cell fractions. The physician combines both types of stem cells, the bone marrow stem cells and the mesenchymal stem cells from fat as each one has its own strengths. These two stem cell types are more effective in combination to repair whatever tissue needs repair. Thirdly, the lab technician will draw blood from the patient to obtain PRP, which contains the growth factors needed to activate the stem cells to do their job of healing. The last step is that the physician now combines hyperosmolar dextrose (the prolotherapy part) with the stem cell preparation and mixed in PRP and injects this mixture into the injured area.

Conditions that respond to stem cell prolotherapy

This procedure has superior healing power. Before and after MRI scans of all of the major body regions showed impressive results. Several video recorded testimonials  complemented the MRI scans. It is surprising how quickly and completely fairly severe injuries can heal using stem cell prolotherapy. One particularly nasty condition is osteonecrosis of the hip, which can occur as a side effect of chronic cortisone treatment for arthritis, asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease. One or two stem cell prolotherapy treatments will heal this condition because the stem cells build up brand new bone and get rid of the old necrotic bone from the osteonecrosis. Conventional medicine has no answer for this condition. Regenerative orthopedics is successful by using stem cell prolotherapy.

What are the advantages of regenerative orthopedics?

Regenerative orthopedics reduces pain very quickly and it improves function rapidly. Healing occurs naturally, and it strengthens the tissues involved. Particularly complicated lower back pains or lower neck pains (due to degenerative disc disease, facet joint osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis and significant foraminal stenosis) respond really well to stem cell prolotherapy, getting rid of chronic pain. The speaker showed before and after MRI scans. He also shared testimonials from patients about the various procedures.

End result following stem cell prolotherapy versus conventional surgery

This is quite in contrast to what conventional orthopedics has to offer: discectomy with fusion surgery, where the patient often has scar pain later. With a laminectomy to treat a foraminal stenosis the patient may have limited improvement of the chronic back pain for a couple of months, only to experience new back pain from a subsequent spinal stenosis as a late complication from the prior surgery. The end result with conventional orthopedics is disability, pain and suffering; the end result with regenerative orthopedics is a patient that is well, active, pain free and thankful.

Orthopedics Without A Knife

Orthopedics Without A Knife

Conclusion

There is a form of orthopedics without a knife: regenerative orthopedics. The tools are prolotherapy for minor musculoskeletal problems. Some very conservatively minded physicians still scoff at this, but wrongly so. PRP prolotherapy is suitable for more severe injuries that require more healing power. Stem cell prolotherapy is what the physician uses for the severe cases. All of the healing power (minus the knife) is put to use. Two types of stem cells initiate healing where there is a need for it. The stem cells transform into the cell types that do the repair.

Two types of stem cells needed sometimes

Research has shown in the past that the mesenchymal stem cells alone will not heal cartilage of joints very well, but in combination with bone marrow derived stem cells this heals quite well and efficiently. Healing osteonecrosis and complicated lower neck and lower back problems borders to miraculous healing. Regenerative orthopedics is definitely something to remember should you get into trouble down the road. There are alternatives to the knife!

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Jan
23
2016

Life Extended By Several Decades

Have you ever thought about the possibility to prolong your “Freshness Date”? At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about “How to extend the human lifespan by 40 years”. Dr. Hertoghe explained that it is possible to extend life by paying attention to the factors that prolong life and combining them as an anti-aging type lifestyle. He made a distinction between

  1. normal aging: up to age 82
  2. healthy aging: up to age 100
  3. anti-aging medicine: up to age 122
  4. reversing aging medicine: much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more.

Normal aging (up to age 82)

Life expectancy is on average about 82 years. From the age of 50 to 60 onwards you may encounter problems with increased cholesterol, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks and strokes. Coronary artery by-pass surgery may extend an individual’s life by 10 to 15 years. But hardening of the arteries in the general circulation will eventually cut down the blood supply to vital organs leading to premature death that could have been avoided.

Around the mid 60’s to mid 70’s 12.4% of African Americans or 2.9% Caucasians get Alzheimer’s disease. These figures worsen rapidly with further aging: in their mid 70’s to mid 80’s 32.5 % of African Americans and 9.8% of Caucasians suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 85+ years 54% of African Americans and 27% of Caucasians have Alzheimer’s disease. With normal aging Alzheimer’s has already increased, and this trend likely is continuing.

Loss of memory, depression and musculoskeletal pain

Memory loss also leads to a shortened survival curve; people with memory loss live two years less on average than compared to a group with no memory loss.

Add to this loss of life because of depression, common in older age. Compared to a non-depressed group over 2 years of older people the depressed group lived 30% shorter.

Musculoskeletal pain in younger age (18-44) was 38%; the next demographic group aged 45-64 reported 61% of musculoskeletal pains; seniors between 65 and 74 had 68% of musculoskeletal pain, and in the demographic group of 75 and up 71% of persons suffered of musculoskeletal pain. As we will learn later there may be hormone deficiencies behind these neck and back pains. If the patient does not seek treatment, this can lead to falls, fractured hips and premature loss of life. Those who survive accidents often become wheel chair bound and end up in nursing homes.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and patients with other disabilities have a lower life expectancy

One specific subgroup of patients with musculoskeletal pain are rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. After 10 years of having rheumatoid arthritis patients will have a survival of only about 50%. With involvement of more than 30 joints  (more severe form of the disease) only about 40% will survive. In other words, rheumatoid arthritis is an important factor for lowering people’s life expectancy.

At an age of 65 to 74 men have 23% of disabilities, while woman have 27.5% disabilities. This increases between the ages of 75 or older to 40% for men and 44.5% for women. At the age of 65 disabled men have a 3.5% higher death rate than the average population; disabled women’s death rate is 2.5% higher than the normal population. In other words, disability kills.

Obesity, and heart disease

Urinary urgency and incontinence leads to a 3.13-fold higher mortality rate than a control group of men who do not have these symptoms.

65% of men and 85% of women above the age of 50 have abdominal obesity. This is not just a harmless condition. There is an association between increased triglyceride levels and increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

By the age of 65-74 heart disease has a frequency of 32% in men and 23% in women. At the age of 75 years and older this jumps to 44% in men and 32% in women. Once the doctor diagnoses heart disease, it causes a lot of premature deaths: an average person with heart disease lives 10 years shorter than those who do not have heart disease!

Healthy aging (up to age 100)

Improving lifestyle factors increases life expectancy

If we look at normal aging, we realize that all these diseases and disabilities we discussed are eventually killing us. In order to live longer we have to take steps that are known to interfere with some of these factors. For instance, quitting smoking will prevent heart disease, several cancers and chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema). Positive thinking, social support and transcendental meditation will increase survival by preventing mental illness and depression, which in turn will prevent suicides. A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the Pegan diet will avoid cardiovascular disease and cut down cancer rates.

Live longer with better diet

One dietary change is called the “polymeal”. It consists of fish, fruit, vegetables, garlic, almonds, a moderate amount of wine and dark chocolate. Compared to the Standard American diet this type of diet would add 9 years for men and 8.1 years for women regarding their life expectancy. For instance, prostate cancer showed a 7-fold increase in a group of men who ate a lot of pickled vegetables, fermented soy products, salted fish and preserved meats, when compared to a control group who did not include these foods. In a group of women who had their meat well done and ate three servings of beef per week, breast cancer risk was 4.62-fold higher compared to women who ate meat done rare or medium rare. Overall cancer and cardiovascular mortality dropped by 35% in a study where 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables were eaten per day.

Regular exercise and supplements of vitamin C and omega-3

A regular exercise program will strengthen the heart and lungs, keep your weight stable, reduce heart attacks and strokes and reduce the probability to develop cancer. A group of men between 61 and 81 were observed over 12 years and divided into those who did not exercise versus those who walked more than 2 miles per day. The exercising men had 19% less mortality compared to the sessile men. Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables or from taking supplements reduces global mortality from all causes by 46% compared to controls that did not. Similarly taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) daily reduced all cause mortality by 20%.

Dr. Hertoghe calls this “healthy aging” and this would allow you to be able to reach an age of about 100 years.

Anti-aging medicine (up to age 122)

Low thyroid hormones

Dr. Hertoghe told the audience that further attention to anti-aging factors could reduce mortality even further. He found over the years that paying attention to correcting hormonal weaknesses would have profound effects on how old a person becomes. Thyroid hormone replacement has been one of the steps that has helped people to feel more energetic, have less muscle pain, less falls, less fractures and complications. It also translates into longer lives.

One slide showed that a low free T3 level (low thyroid) was associated with a 3.6-fold higher death rate. A low free T3 level is an accurate predictor of cumulative death rate in cardiac patients.

T3 is also important for the maintenance of the immune system, which shows in patients with tuberculosis: the one-year mortality rate from TB in thyroid deficient patients was 75%, while patients with a normal thyroid had a mortality from TB of only 7%.

Replacement of missing sex hormones

Secondly, replacing missing sex hormones can add more life because cardiovascular disease is postponed (less heart attacks, less strokes), there is less cancer and better cancer survival, if a person comes down with cancer. Many statistics were quoted.

One interesting slide showed the longitudinal survival follow-up of congenital dwarfs in comparison with their normal brothers or sisters. Untreated male dwarfs turned only 56 years on average, while their unaffected normal brothers turned 75 years on average (19 years longer). With female dwarfs the difference is even more striking: untreated females dwarfs turned 46 years on average, while their normal sisters turned 80 years on average (a difference of 34 years).

Bioidentical hormone treatment prolongs life, lowers heart attack rates and lowers cancer rates

Another publication showed that the heart attack risk was 3.8-fold higher in a group of patients with hypopituitarism (under function of the pituitary gland), but the treatment group (treated with GH) had a normal rate of heart attacks.

11606 men aged 40 to 79 years were followed for between 6 and 10 years. The group who had the top 25% range of testosterone had a 19% lower mortality rates from heart attacks or cancer.

Older women, particularly aged 100 in Okinawa had 2.3-fold higher testosterone levels than women in the US at age 70. On the other hand 70-year old Okinawan women had 2.7-fold higher estrogen levels than US women.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) prior to developing breast cancer showed a 27% longer survival among 984 breast cancer patients in Sweden compared to those without prior hormone treatment.

Lower mortality rates for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy of breast cancer patients

In another group of breast cancer patients (2755 patients) aged 35 to 74 who were treated with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) after their breast cancer diagnosis, 50% had a lower recurrence rate (compared to no-BHRT treatment) and there was a reduction of 66% of mortality from breast cancer compared to controls without BHRT treatment. Another study showed that breast cancer patients would have a mortality rate of 33.3% without hormone treatment. After non-estrogen hormone treatment the mortality rate dropped to 12.5% and to 6% after estrogen/progesterone use. This shows the healing results of the various natural hormones.

Treating the cause rather than the symptoms

A group of 280 men and women around the age of 50 were treated with anti-aging hormone replacement for 2 or more years. In the beginning there were 34% of women and 15% of men with coronary artery disease. There were also 36.4% of women and 34.1% of men with high blood pressure. After replacing all of the missing hormones with bioidentical hormones for more than 2 years, coronary artery disease had dropped to 1.6% of the women and 1.08% of the men; high blood pressure had dropped to 2% of the women and 3% of the men. No drugs, just hormones! Of course, initially the doctors prescribed drugs to stabilize their condition, but they could gradually drop them safely. The reason was that the doctors treated the underlying hormone deficiency. The doctors were treating the cause of the cardiovascular disease rather than only the symptoms.

Low mortality of women on bioidentical hormone replacement

Dr. Hertoghe presented data of 6.38-year follow-up of 286 consecutive patients using anti-aging medicine (replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones). These patients had an overall cancer rate of 2.1%, which compared very favorably to the 3.2% cancer rate among US women. The overall cancer rate was  3.1% in French women and 3.1% in Belgium women on no hormones. This is the type of information that is needed following the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that scared women into the false belief that hormones would be “poisonous”.

Synthetic hormone do not fit the hormone receptor

In the WHI synthetic hormones caused cancer and heart attacks; the reason for this was that synthetic hormones are not the identical shape as the natural hormones. But hormones and hormone receptors have to fit like a key into a lock; otherwise they are not effective or even block the natural life prolonging action of the natural hormone. This is why in the WHI study the outcomes were poor. Using bioidentical hormones the doctor can prevent heart attacks and strokes and they are also cancer-protective.

Reversing aging medicine (much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more)

General medicine has the goal to make patients as healthy as possible. With reversing aging medicine the goal is to make patients as young as possible. They are at their healthiest and feel younger again.

With anti-aging medicine using a healthy diet, exercise and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy the patients can add 15 years of good life. Add to these organ transplants, if necessary, telomerase activators and stem cell therapy. This can add another 25 years of life expectancy to a total of 40 years.

Growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone deficiency is the one factor that has been underestimated. The discussion of dwarfs in comparison to their healthy brothers and sisters showed us the following. Growth hormone production can add between 19 and 34 years (average 26.5 years) of life. Dr. Hertoghe has done blood tests (IGF-1) and lately also 24-hour urine metabolite tests of growth hormone on aging patients and found that many are deficient with regard to GH production. These were patients where Dr. Hertoghe already replaced their thyroid hormones, if abnormal and replaced their sex hormones when they were low. But they lost hair, developed old looking faces with wrinkles. In addition, a loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue is giving the face a hollow appearance. They also had muscle and joint pains and thin skin, particularly over the back of their hands.

Replacement of growth hormone

He replaced their missing GH using daily GH self-injection with a tiny needle (similar to diabetes injections). Within 1.5 to 3 years the wrinkles disappeared, the faces started to look younger and patients did feel younger. Their muscle and joint pains had disappeared and their hair grew back. The dosage range is between 0.1mg and 0.3mg, a tiny amount of GH daily. This is not inexpensive, but some health care plans pay for this, as a lack of GH is a true hormone deficiency.

About organ transplants

Often it is a single limiting organ that determines when we die, typically the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, small bowel, pancreas or bone marrow. Organ transplants can add years of life, but it can be cumbersome to find a suitable donor. One study showed that only 40% to 60% of organ transplants are surviving 8 years after the surgery.

Stem cell therapies are other ways to prolong life. More research will perfect this, but essentially stem cells can provide 220 different cell types for in-vitro organ culture. This can probably be of use in the future to replace malfunctioning organs.

Life Extended By Several Decades

Life Extended By Several Decades

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer can be a reality today. You just need to be willing to discipline yourself and watch what you are eating (Mediterranean type diet). Also, exercise regularly and have a positive psychological attitude. If the outdoor air is poor where you live, you may want to consider moving. Move to a place with good air quality. Sleep well for 7 ½ hours every night and retire not later than 10 to 11PM. You need to be asleep between midnight and 3AM as the growth hormone peak occurs at that time.

Take supplements

Take supplements that contain longevity micronutrients (magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Co-Q-10, selenium, zinc, iron in premenopausal women etc.). Replace all missing hormones with bioidentical ones, like thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), sex hormones, DHEA and GH. Stem cell therapy and telomerase activators for cell rejuvenation will also have more of a place in the future.

Even, if you do only part of this reversing aging program you will slow down aging.

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Oct
10
2015

Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix

Are you ready to learn about futuristic medicine consisting of tissue repair with extra cellular matrix? On September 5, 2015 I watched an interesting documentary on Discovery Channel while working out on the treadmill in the gym. This gave me the idea that this would be good material for a blog. After a little research on the Internet I found the full extra cellular matrix story, which you can read about below.

An amputated finger grows back

Lee Spievak, a man who loves flying model aircraft had an injury to his his right middle finger. A rotating model airplane propeller chopped off the end of his right middle finger. His surgeon felt that there was nothing much that could be done. But his brother who works in regenerative medicine knew about a powder made from pig’s bladder tissue, which Dr Stephen Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh, had pioneered. His brother sent a sample of powder (extra cellular matrix, ECM) to Lee Spievak who sprinkled some on the open wound (the stump).

New tissue forming with extra cellular matrix powder

Within two applications he saw that new tissue was forming. In a matter of 4 weeks it sealed up, the wound and a new finger grew to the same length as before. In the course of 4 months his nail, skin, his feeling and even his fingerprint were back to normal.

This story happened in Cincinnati in 2005. In this news story it is explained why the ECM powder worked so well: it prevented the wound from closing and it stimulated the body to heal.

A large thigh muscle defect grows back

Marine Sergeant Ron Strang was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan where a large part of his left quadriceps muscle (left thigh) was ripped off. After several surgeries the surgeons decided that Ron was a good candidate for part of a trial that is ongoing involving about 80 Veterans with similar injuries. Dr. Steven Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh suggested with the next surgery to put extra cellular matrix from pig bladder into the remaining quadriceps muscle to see whether it would regrow part of it.

Surgery with addition of extra cellular matrix from pig’s bladder

The surgery followed by physical exercise was so successful that Sergeant Strang is now able to run and do all the activities he wants. There is still a scar, but in comparison to the initial injury where a big chunk of muscle was missing, the remaining scar was insignificant.

Dr. Badylak explains in the video of the link that the insertion of the sheet of extracellular matrix immediately recruits the patient’s own stem cells, which makes new muscle cells, new nerve tissue, new skin, whatever the body needs to heal what’s missing in the injured area.

Dog gut growing into a dog aorta

Dr. Badylak from the University of Pittsburgh had a veterinary medicine degree before he studied medicine and became a surgeon. From the beginning his interest was in regenerative medicine.

After he saw the success with Lee Spievak’s finger regeneration, he thought that there must be a way to regenerate other tissues. He started doing experiments on dogs where he removed part the arch of the aorta and replaced it with a piece of gut from the same dog to see whether the dog would survive and whether the gut would be strong enough to withstand the pressure from the outflowing blood in the aorta. He figured that the tubular structure of the gut would be a better template than the synthetic aorta pieces that are still in use by thoracic surgeons. To his surprise the first dog (his own dog named Rocky) survived and did well.

Dog experiments to understand how extra cellular matrix works

He accumulated data on a total of 15 dogs. All of them survived and did well. He could not understand what had happened, so he reexamined one of these dogs where he got histological samples and analyzed them under the microscope to see what was going on. What he expected was the typical findings of the gut transplant, but instead he found a new aorta with all of the histological findings of aortic tissue. There was a transformation of a piece of gut into aortic tissue!

Next Dr. Badylak repeated the surgical procedure, but this time he inserted a piece of gut from a cat, removed the lining of it (the mucosa) and the muscle layer, (the muscularis),. The remainder was only the extra cellular matrix, a thin tubular structure of ECM.

Aorta scaffolding made of extra cellular matrix survives in dogs

When he was done, he was wondering whether the body would reject the catgut ECM. After all, it came from another species. Normally with whole organ transplants one can expect rejection of the foreign tissue. None of that happened. The experiment went flawlessly: the transplant survived like all the others and again the ECM had turned into dog aorta. It was possible to integrate the extra cellular matrix into the aorta without any scar formation! None of this fitted any conventional medicine model; it was the blueprint for the regenerative medicine model.

Dr. Badylak recognized that this was a huge step forward, and he would need easy access to ECM material. He got it from the pig slaughterhouses dotting the Indiana countryside surrounding Purdue. There would never be a shortage of tissue for preparing the scaffolding of the ECM for various applications.

Repair of tissue defects with extra cellular matrix in various body regions successful

By now the surgeon had proven that the gut or ECM transplant was switching off an inflammatory reaction, which suppressed scar formation, and simultaneously promoted regeneration. But the missing puzzle still was how the body generated the aortic tissue.

Dr. Badylak tested whether the procedure would work for large veins, smaller arteries and Achilles tendons.  He did this all in dogs and using pig’s ECM. The answer was it worked all beautifully with no scarring and perfect healing results. Control dogs did not get the ECM, but were only operated on and then repaired conventionally in their Achilles tendons.  They developed a limp from scar tissue. This is what often happens in humans as well with conventional surgery. But none of the dogs that had 3 cm cuts and then received a treatment with pig’s ECM developed a limp or scarring. They healed perfectly.

Large company supports Dr. Badylak’s work

In 1992 DePuy licensed Badylak’s ECM-derived “biologic scaffolds” for all orthopedic applications. DePuy is a big company that makes supplies for hip and knee replacements and much more. This was an ideal support for Dr. Badylak’s work.

In 1999 the FDA approved pig’s bladder ECM for human applications. This included the use of pig’s ECM for shoulder rotator cuff tears in patients. The FDA also approved it for abdominal hernias and for esophageal reflux damage. In addition the FDA approved it to induce the regrowth of the outer lining of the brain following brain surgery.

He could now continue his research and find out what the missing puzzle was.  How did the body use the pig’s ECM and repair tissues?

Stem cell recruitment by ECM

Dr. Badylak was visiting a colleague of his in Los Angeles, Dr. John Itamur who had previously repaired a rotator cuff tear on a patient 8 weeks earlier using porcine ECM. The same patient had an unrelated shoulder injury. This required surgery just adjacent to the previously repaired rotator cuff. The surgeon decided to take a small biopsy to see how the healing tissue looked. This was when Dr. Badylak came for a visit. The microscope showed a surprise: the scaffolding had disappeared as expected. But there were a lot of new cells there. They did not look like inflammatory cells, muscle cells or nerve cells; they were stem cells. Dr. Badylak read several papers that told him that ECM breaks down into so-called crypteins. These peptides have powerful stem cell recruiting properties.

Experiment show how extra cellular matrix recruits stem cells 

In 2003 he started groundbreaking experiments in mice that proved this theory to be correct. He X-rayed a group of mice to kill all of their bone marrow stem cells. Then he injected stem cells tagged with a fluorescent marker. They repopulated the bone marrow with these tagged stem cells from the same strain of mice. Now he removed a piece from the Achilles tendon and repaired the defect with pig ECM. Stem cells tagged with a fluorescent marker were flooding the Achilles tendon repair area. Even months after the Achilles tendon repair with ECM the new Achilles tendon was still filled with some of these tagged cells showing that some of them had matured into regenerated tissue.

Video showing would healing with extra cellular matrix and the final outcome of dog Rocky

Here is a link that contains a video about Sergeant Strang and his severe leg injury (repair of a rectus muscle tear). You may wonder how Rocky, the initial dog did who had an aortic segment replaced by a piece of gut. Rocky lived for another 8 years and was healthy until the very end.

Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix

Tissue Repair With Extra Cellular Matrix

Conclusion

You saw how the observation of a healing finger turned into experiments on dogs. Aortic defects and Achilles tendon defects healed without scarring. You learnt how pig’s or cat’s ECM were in use as scaffolds and that the body absorbed this. They recruit stem cells from the host’s body that subsequently do the healing. The exciting news about ECM is that it promotes healing, recruits stem cells, but also suppresses inflammation and scar formation.

We already hear that ECM is used in hernia repairs, rotator cuff repairs for shoulder injuries, and also in hair transplants, where Acell material is mixed in to improve the transplant success.

It is being used in lower esophagus surgery in cancer cases and with reflux esophagitis.

What will be the next application for ECM? We do not know everything, but it is a promising step into the future of regenerative medicine!

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