In 2010, a woman named Deepa Kulkarni lost the tip of her finger after injuring it in a door. Only a small section of nail remained at the tip of her finger, and doctors presumed that they would be unable to fix it.
That is until a company called ACell covered the wound in a material called MatriStem, a powder derived from pig bladder. Remarkably, the procedure was a success, and the finger was able to fully heal itself. Now, Acell is looking to see if that same magic material can be used to regrow body parts much larger than tips of fingers.
Acell explains that MatriStem, "incorporates into the surrounding tissue during the healing process and leaves new tissue where scar tissue formation is normally expected." In effect, MatriStem promotes the body to fully regrow material instead of simply creating scar tissue. Without the MatriStem, Deepa’s body would have simply crusted over the injured finger instead of rebuilding it.
Scientists explored Deepa’s miraculous recovery, and identified a new type of stem cell called “Wnts” which can promote cell growth all over the body. Research is still being done to see if and how these Wnts can be controlled, as well as how MatriStem affects them.
Research has proven that Wnts are capable of promoting bone and marrow growth in mice without the presence of embryotic stem cells. These findings are exciting because they show that not only may limb regrowth be possible in the future, but that it may be possible using a type of stem cell that is easier, and less controversial to harness than that of embryotic stem cells.