An experimental approach that uses material from pig bladders to grow new muscle is showing some early promise for victims of volumetric muscle loss, but the success of the procedure depends on physical therapy that begins soon after surgery.
In the procedure, conducted on only 5 patients, researchers transplanted specially treated extracellular matrix from pig bladders into body areas that had suffered significant loss of muscle. According to the authors, the matrix acts like "scaffolding" that draws a patient's own stem cells to the site when the matrix begins to decay. Researchers say that 3 patients experienced a 20% increase in strength and a 25% improvement in function 6 months after the surgery.
The research report was published in the April 30 issue of Science Translational Medicine (abstract only available for free). News of the report spread quickly to major media outlets including Reuters, the Los Angeles Times (LAT), National Public Radio, and NBC News.
While much of the focus of the news reporting was on the use of the matrix tissue, the lead researcher interviewed in the stories stressed that the surgery itself only sets the stage for muscle growth that relies on physical therapy initiated within 2 days after the procedure. Because the stem cells drawn to the site of the matrix can generate a variety of tissues, patients need to engage in physical therapy to train the cells to generate muscle. In the LAT article, lead researcher Stephen Badlyak is quoted as saying "The cells get the idea to say: 'OK. I get it. I'm supposed to line up this way. I'm supposed to be the type of a cell that can bear weight, or contract.' If that doesn't happen when they get there, and they don't get those signals, they can turn into anything else."
Research-related stories featured in News Now are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.
American Physical Therapy Association | 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-1488 703/684-APTA (2782) | 800/999-2782 | 703/683-6748 (TDD) | 703/684-7343 (fax)
Contact Us | For Advertisers & Exhibitors | For Media | Follow APTA
All contents © 2014 American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.