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Pittsburgh Doctors Turn Science Fiction Into Reality

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

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Health News & Information: CBSPittsburgh.com/Health

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are amazing things happening in a laboratory that you’ve probably never heard of.

Thanks to the research done at Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a local Marine who was injured is now being compared to the “Six Million Dollar Man,” from the 70s TV show.

Sgt. Ron Strang, 28, was walking down a road in Afghanistan when an IED went off.

“Spun me around and knocked me to the ground, and when I sat up and looked down, I could see my leg was split open,” Sgt. Strang said.

He lost a large section of muscle in his leg. When he returned home to Jefferson Hills, he was unable to run and had problems even walking.

Sgt. Strang assumed his dream of becoming a police officer was over.

“I wasn’t sure there was anything anybody could do,” he said.

But, he learned about an experimental surgery based on research done inside the McGowan Institute.

Dr. Peter Rubin implanted something called extracellular matrix in Sgt. Strang’s leg.

The matrix is actually made from pig bladders. However, it’s loaded with information and actually recruits cells to help regrow the muscle, according to Dr. Stephen Badylak.

Sgt. Strang very quickly noticed a difference and was able to hike and eventually run again.

But that’s not all they’re developing at McGowan.

They’re working on a tiny blood pump for newborn babies and something called a “skin gun” that can spray skin cells onto burn victims.

They’re investigating whether organs, such as a heart, can be reduced to a matrix and implanted in people.

Dr. Badylak is ready to try even more.

“You have a stroke. Nobody thinks you can regrow new brain tissue,” Dr. Badylak said. “I’m not so sure, maybe you can.”

As for Sgt. Strang, he’s incredibly grateful and now sees a future he didn’t think possible.

“If I have kids or a family, I could be able to play with my kids and to do the things normal people would do,” Sgt. Strang said. “You never really think how much you take walking for granted.”

If you would like participate in the same study as Sgt. Strang, you can check out this website: http://www.upmc.com/Services/plastic-surgery/services/innovative/cirm/Pages/default.aspx

For information on the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine: http://www.mirm.pitt.edu/

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