Pig bladder powder regrows human finger

Posted by on March 26th, 2008 in bio-hacking, DIY, health

    - photo via boingboing.net

A man cut off his finger tip while working on a model plane. His brother, a medical research scientist, sent him a vial containing powdered pig bladder and told him to sprinkle on the severed finger tip. It grew back — “flesh, blood, vessels and nail” — in four weeks.

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.

“It tells the body, start that process of tissue regrowth,” said Badylak.

Badlayk is one of the many scientists who now believe every tissue in the body has cells which are capable of regeneration. All scientists have to do is find enough of those cells and “direct” them to grow.

“Somehow the matrix summons the cells and tell them what to do,” Badylak explained. “It helps instruct them in terms of where they need to go, how they need to differentiate – should I become a blood vessel, a nerve, a muscle cell or whatever.”

From BoingBoing. Original story here.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • del.icio.us
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

23 Responses to “Pig bladder powder regrows human finger”

  1. I’m really glad of how much press this story has been getting. What I want to know is, what about bone and cartiledge regrowth? There’s very little mention of that, here.

  2. maybe they can finally help me to regrow my lost left testicle

  3. …what about bone and cartiledge regrowth?

    Good question, Damien.

  4. Wow–very freaky. Cool, though.

  5. Also, what about fingerprints? This seems like we might get into some seriously biologically-advanced criminals, here…

  6. Surely, if it grows back, it grows back. After all, finger prints aren’t a function of environment.

  7. finger prints aren’t in your DNA though, steve. at least, I don’t think they are. I could be wrong. identical twins don’t have the same finger prints, do they?

  8. @Damien
    @captain trips

    - The fingerprints should grow back regardless. The pattern is programed in your DNA. The only way to change them is to damage the dermis of the skin very badly. Since the fingertip was just gone, and not burned (for example), his fingerprints should once again be there.

    Having said that, I had a knife malfunction when I was younger and cut off a good chunk of the end of my thumb. When all the healing was done, the fingerprint did come back for that section, BUT they were slightly altered. There is a wave in the pattern where the knife cut the skin. The cut was deep enough that I have nerve damage there, ie very little feeling for the section of thumb that grew back. Technically, my fingerprint has been altered (and it will show up if I have my prints scanned).

    And no, identical twins do NOT have the same fingerprints.

  9. “The pattern is programed in your DNA.”
    “And no, identical twins do NOT have the same fingerprints.”

    These two statements seem contradictory to me.

  10. @captain trips

    They may seem so, but new evidence points otherwise. We were talking about the same article in WhiteChapel.

  11. Shame they didn’t have a clearer ‘Before’ pic so we could see just how much finger regrew. From the vid it looks like the guy is saying he lost most/all of the digital phalange including bone and nail, and if he’s grown those bits back then that’s a hell of a lot more impressive than just growing fresh skin (not that that isn’t pretty cool too).

    Important questions/thoughts that occur to me:

    1. How soon after the injury did the powder need to be applied?

    2. Was it just sprinkled on and left? Did it need reapplying? How frequently?

    3. Can I just buy some and keep it in the fridge in case I cut myself preparing food or doing DIY or something? Here’s a place that sells what *might* be the product – http://www.biomol.com/Online_Catalog/Online_Catalog/Products/36/?categoryId=688 and here’ssomething on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000PJI7EM?smid=A7KJCEICGKRZM (ooof; $1800!)

    4. Can this be taken as a preventative measure, so if you were to injure yourself then this stuff would already be swimming round your bloodstream ready to go to work?

    5. Interesting that the regenerated finger still looks old – a consequence of telomere shortening?

    6. How long till someone over at Modblog starts messing with this? Suppose you were to chop off a finger at the stump, apply this stuff, then try to split the regrowing finger down the middle and apply more extracellular matrix – could you forcibly grow an extra finger? How about an extra forearm and hand? Extra arm? Extra head? Extra penis?

    Very exciting possibilities from such a relatively simple product.

  12. Extra penis?

    Somehow I think this would be one of the first to be attempted, rather than the last, as your list suggests!

  13. Extra boob, Total Recall style :)

  14. @Seej Engine

    5. Interesting that the regenerated finger still looks old – a consequence of telomere shortening?

    That’s a good point, and probably right. The DNA is being replaced by what was already there. A fountain of youth, so to speak, doesn’t appear to apply to this procedure.

    And taking it as a preventative measure would be the best way.

  15. i bet our fellow travelers in body modification, the Furries, are damn excited about this.. a minor DNA tweak, a small incision and application of this and it’s the restoration of vestigial tails!

  16. [...] Pig bladder powder regrows human finger [...]

  17. Possible argument that this could be false or at least grossly exaggerated:

  18. @Podger

    Maybe, but they are now using it stateside. If it works, great; if it doesn’t at least someone is trying.

  19. That pisses me off. What good is it if they are just throwing out a half finished product that has no proof of working? It tarnishes the name of medical science and distracts from researchers who are actually making progress. (My sweet lord, Nikola Tesla. She walks, she walks!).

    BBC recanted. The Times denied. ever printing it. Face it, it’s a hoax. In closing:

    “Our fingertips have an intrinsic ability to regenerate. Fostering regeneration in a fingertip amputation injury is apparently as simple as cleaning the wound and covering it with a simple dressing. If allowed to heal naturally, the fingertip restores its contour, fingerprint and sensation, and undergoes a varying degree of lengthening.”
    (SciAm, April 2008, p61)

  20. Hi! i just wanna know how to get this powder to regrowth my thumb. It been two years since i lost my left thumb,can it be regrowth my thumb? or it’s too late.Please help me!

  21. The big question is: what’s so special about pig’s bladder?

    Dr. Becker seemed to find something in silver ions that
    assisted regeneration of limbs.

    Will this method enable regrowth of eyes, ears or even
    more important organs like livers, kidneys, lungs and

    Here’s a copy of some culling on this:

    —-begin quote—-
    Dr. Alan Spievack, 74, educator, cellular regeneration pioneer
    taught at Harvard

    Dr. Alan Spievack held 19 patents for medical devices. His got interested
    in regeneration while working with salamanders.
    Email|Print|Single Page| Text size – + By J.M. Lawrence
    Globe Correspondent / May 4, 2008

    Boston surgeon Dr. Alan Spievack, a pioneer in cellular regeneration who spent more than 40 years teaching at Harvard and performing surgery at area hospitals,
    died March 15 at his home in Cambridge. He was 74 and had cancer.

    Several years ago, Dr. Spievack’s research helped a relative: He used a powder extract of pig bladder to regrow his brother’s finger when a model airplane propeller
    sliced off the tip in a 2005 accident.

    “What he’s done with my finger, he said it will be to this generation what antibiotics was to the last generation,” said Lee Spievack, who works in a hobby shop in

    The research is now being tested by the military on the injured hands of five Iraq war veterans in San Antonio. The US Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort
    Sam Houston began its pilot study after doctors saw before-and-after photos of Lee’s finger and reviewed research published by Dr. Spievack and Stephen
    Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

    “Alan never did anything the traditional way,” Badylak said. “Alan always bucked the system and didn’t accept things the way they were, which is probably why he
    was successful.”

    In 1999, Dr. Spievack founded a regenerative medicine company called ACell Inc., based in Maryland. ACell owns the patents for “extracellular matrix” powder
    and markets products to veterinarians.

    Dr. Spievack held 19 US patents for medical devices, and his collaboration with Badylak won 10 research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

    The men published research demonstrating regeneration in animals of the larynx, vocal cords, esophagus, bladder, and all the components of the muscular skeletal

    Dr. Spievack’s interest in regeneration began in the 1950s while he was an undergraduate at Kenyon College, according to an article about him in the Kenyon
    College Bulletin. His biology professor, Maxwell E. Power, assigned him to raise salamanders, clip off their limbs, and record how long it took for them to
    regenerate. Dr. Spievack often credited the professor for inspiring him to become a doctor.

    His brother Lee recalled feeding bits of hamburger to his older brother’s salamanders for the project. “He operated on them and I photographed them and fed them,”
    he said.

    Born in Cincinnati, Dr. Spievack was the middle son of lawyer Albert and Ethel (Coleman) Spievack. He was diagnosed with rheumatic fever as a boy and
    developed a love of building model airplanes while confined to his room.

    “He approached surgery with the same delicacy he employed in building model airplanes,” said his older brother, Edwin of Dallas.

    Dr. Spievack’s work with salamanders won him a 1955 Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Bologna, Italy, the same year he was accepted at Harvard
    Medical School.

    His father feared he would lose his Harvard placement if he deferred and gave his son an Austin-Healey convertible as inducement to bypass Bologna, the family
    said. Dr. Spievack got his Harvard medical degree in 1959.

    Joanne Spievack said her husband of 20 years was an optimist with “a wonderful wit” and deep insights about life.

    “He always had a story about everything. I loved his explanations for so many things,” she said.

    His dry sense of humor was embodied on the cover of a collection of essays he wrote as an undergraduate: “This will make good people feel bad and bad people
    feel worse.”

    He was a voracious reader, golfer, and lover of classical music. He could identify most of any composer’s work as a result of Sunday afternoons that he was forced
    to listen to symphonies with his father as a boy, she said.

    He also inherited his father’s obsession with beautiful lawns, she added.

    In 1981, a Middlesex jury ordered Dr. Spievack and another doctor to pay nearly $400,000 in damages to a Brookline woman for failing to diagnose a lump in her
    breast as cancer. An X-ray ordered by Dr. Spievack did not reveal the cancer.

    The judge set aside the jury’s verdict, but an appeals court in 1983 sided with experts who said Dr. Spievack should have ordered a biopsy.

    Dr. Spievack was “devastated” by the case, his wife said, noting that biopsies were not standard care for breast lumps at the time.

    His greatest disappointment, though, was not living long enough to see his research’s ultimate potential, she said.

    Dr. Spievack’s eldest daughter, Lieutenant Bowen C. Spievack, of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., said her father was devoted to improving
    patient care.

    “He didn’t want to rest on doing things the conventional way. He really focused on how can I make things better,” she said.

    She called him a “calming influence” whose methodical and logical approach to problems left those around him feeling relief and hope.

    Dr. Spievack was married to Bowen’s mother, Elizabeth Cahill of Rockport, from 1965 to 1986.

    To Lee, his middle right finger is a constant reminder of his brother’s genius.

    “He gave my body the signal to heal itself. The only problem is I have to cut the fingernail every two days because it grows faster than the others,” he said.

    In addition to his brothers, daughter, and wife, Dr. Spievack leaves another daughter, Julianna of Cambridge.

    Services have been held.

    © Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
    ——end quotes—–

  22. I thought this was outed as a scam?

  23. Damien, when this story was Televised, He regrew his ORIGINAL fingerprint