The Healing Power of Pigs: Part One

By: Marcie Kobriger Email
By: Marcie Kobriger Email

It sounds stranger than fiction, but researchers think they’ve found the secret that can trick the human body into re-growing its own parts.

It’s a secret kept by Mother Nature and it lies in a unlikely place. This new breakthrough has strong Indiana roots and has people questioning the healing power of pigs.

Just North of the small town of Albion, Indiana lies a dirty little secret, or in this case, thousands of them. Whiteshire Hamroc Farm raises and ships out nearly fifty thousand pigs each year. Most of them end up bacon and pork chops, but until they meet their maker, the pigs are pretty pampered.

Their barns were designed to keep the pigs healthy, and are climate controled. They're even fed ice cream on occasion. Visitors even have to shower before they enter and wear masks and Tyvec suits as they walk the halls. Safety guards are put in place to keep the pigs contained and untouched by the outside world. The extra care is taken for a reason.

The reason for the extra precaution is found hundreds of miles away at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. What they are doing with these pigs may seem more like science fiction than medicine.

Dr. Stephen Badylak, a former professor and graduate of Purdue, has dedicated decades of his life to improving the quality of life for others. For twenty years Badylak has been studying something called matrix tissues. Badylak says the matrix tissues are “actually a collection of functional and structural molecules that are ideally suited to support the growth and differentiation of our cells of every tissue in our body.”

The matrix tissues can be harvested from many different organs in any animal, most commonly from a pig’s bladder. The bladders are harvested, washed, scrapped, and picked until all that’s left is matrix tissue.

Dr. Mike Lemmon says that the matrix tissue can then be used as framework for future growth. He says the material can be “placed in the person or the animal and the tissues of that person or animal recognize that as something to bring cells back into and reform tissue.”

The matrix allows tissue to repair, reform and rebuild without forming a scab or a scar. So far the use of matrix tissue has been used to help heal surface wounds, repair ligaments, and even help mend esophageal and cardiovascular implants.

The early forms of the technology have already helped millions of people, but the complete scope of healing power of pigs has not yet been fully realized. It may even change the way injured soldiers are treated after coming back from battle.

In part two of the Healing Power of Pigs, we’ll introduce you to Lee Spievack, a Cleveland man who lost the tip of his finger at work, only to have it re-grown with this ground breaking treatment.

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