Friday, January 22, 2010

Animals help doctors fix humans

Has the infamous "So our hope is that we can actually end deafness" statement thats causing an uproar in the deaf community.

Animals help doctors fix humans

BOSTON, MA -- One in 20 people will need some kind of tissue transplant in their lifetime, and increasingly surgeons are turning to animals for help.

The animals in Doctor Joseph Vacanti's lab are on the cutting edge of regenerative medicine. He says, "We actually used human cartilage cells in a human ear shape and then on the back of this mouse, the human cartilage cells grew into a human ear."

Within a year he plans to re-grow an ear on a human in a similar way. "We can give somebody back their own face, that's been either ravaged by cancer or destroyed by a terrible accident or injured by war."

Pigs are huge helpers when it comes to healing. Samer Mattar is a Bariatric Surgeon in Indianapolis. "Believe it or not, their genetic makeup is pretty close to humans."

Surgeons use material made from the pig's small intestines to repair torn muscles caused by hernias. Pig powder is re-growing severed fingers at the University of Pittsburgh.

Steve Badvlak is the Director of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh. "The simplest applications involve just being able to spread a powder or a particular form of the powder on the wound site so it can affect the wound
healing process."

From land to the sea, fish are helping scientists fix hearing disorders. If zebra fish lose hearing, they naturally re-grow new auditory cells. Scientists are studying the genetic process to restore hearing in humans.

A. James Hudspeth is an Investigator for Howard Hughes Medical Institute
in Chevy Chase, Maryland. "So our hope is that we can actually end deafness."

According to research found in the journal Transplantation, transplants from pigs might actually be safer than transplants from humans in the long run.

For more information, please contact:
Valerie Wencis
Public affairs
Massachusetts General Hospital
Vwencis@partners.org