PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Nick Clark’s lower left leg was badly damaged in a skiing accident nearly 10 years ago.

“Because of complications of that severe break, there was a lot of internal bleeding inside these muscle compartments and that caused swelling,” said Clark.

He lost large volumes of muscle.

“I couldn’t push off my left foot at all. I had no balance,” Clark said.

He was one of five patients who took part in an experiment to test a new stem cell technique using material from pigs.

“We can take the type of injury that normally would form nothing other than scar tissue and form a brand new skeletal muscle that’s functional, that contracts,” said Dr. Steve Badylak, of the department of surgery at UPMC.

Thin sheets of the material are implanted, coaxing the patient’s stem cells to the injury site.

Then, through intense physical therapy, the new material and cells are stretched together with the remaining muscle.

“They get these signals,” Dr. Badylak said. “They say, okay I get it, I’m supposed to line up like this, and they recruit their own new blood supply, their own new nerves and they basically start forming new tissue this way. This is a major step forward.”

Clark says his balance is better now.

“I wanted to try it,” he said. “I wanted to see if it works for me, and I’m happy that it has.”

He can also put weight on his leg, jump and he no longer wears an orthotic.

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