Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Weird Wednesday ~ Pixie Dust Aids Injured Soldiers

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A powder nick-named "Pixie Dust" is being used to save the limbs of war heroes who have been wounded in Afghanistan. Surgeons have already used the dust to save several soldiers so badly mutilated that they were at risk of amputation. Made from pig bladders it has the ability to help the human body grow new tissue to replace large areas of a leg or arm destroyed by blast damage. Now there is hope that limbs that would have been previously amputated can be saved. Pig bladders contain a substance called extra cellular matrix, which is made up largely of collagen. Scientists have already used powdered pig bladders to help grow replacement human bladders. But researchers working for the American military realized the substance might also help hundreds of wounded soldiers.

Professor Steve Wolf has already treated several young soldiers whose limbs were so badly damaged, they were unable to walk and faced amputation. He said: 'The word has got around about how this substance from pig bladders has got this magic ability to grow new tissue. Then one day one of the patients used the phrase 'pixie dust' to describe it and the name stuck  'We don't quite know how it works which adds to its magical qualities. We think that it attracts cells in the body that have the ability to multiply and gives them a chemical signal to make new tissue.

Professor Wolf - chief of clinical trials at the American Army's Institute for Surgical Research is just about to start a formal trial using 'pixie dust' on bomb victims after the successful treatment of a handful of blast victims last year. One of the first soldiers to receive the treatment was Corporal Isais Hernandez. He was so severely wounded by a mortar round that amputation of his leg seemed likely. 
Hernandez said: 'The surgery that Dr Wolf performed has been fantastic. Within a few weeks  of the operation last year I was doing things with the leg I hadn't done for months. 'It was so quick that you could almost see it growing and filling the hole where I was blasted. I could feel my limb tingling as the new tissues grew.'

'The Extra Cellular membrane had not only made muscle but also built nerves. Hernandez had a gaping, crater-like wound, in his thigh right down to the bone and doctors had no way of replacing the muscle and other tissue that had been blown away. Professor Wolf operated and instead of using powered bladder he used it in sheet form putting layers of it into the large wound in Corporal Hernandez's leg. Magically over a period of several weeks new tissue and muscle grew until the wound was filled.

Professor Wolf said: 'This was an amazing result. It was quite a sight to see the body regenerate in this way because in the past we have not been able to replace muscle and tissue once it has been lost.' The Extra Cellular Matrix grew nerves, ordinary tissue and muscle where there had been none. Corporal Hernandez is now able to walk on the limb - which he couldn't do before surgery -and is undergoing physiotherapy to restore as much strength as possible to his limb. A large scar covers the area where the sheets of pig bladder worked their magic.

Pixie dust was developed by scientists at the Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh and one of their successes was to grow a completely new finger tip including blood vessels tissue, skin and finger nail for a man who severed it with the propeller of a model airplane.

Complete article here!


Robin Larkspur said...

This is amazing news!!! Magic works!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

How fascinating! And calling it "pixie dust" just makes it that much more wonderful!