Extracellular Matrix Surgery

When a muscle experiences severe trauma and breaks down, the body can have trouble healing itself. For those with severe injuries that have been unresponsive to other treatments, there’s a promising new approach.

Researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have helped pioneer an innovative treatment that allows the body to regrow damaged tissue.

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the body’s natural scaffold for cells. By making significant strides in understanding the ECM, we’re now able to apply its healing traits to severe injuries. ECM not only incites regrowth of the injured tissue, it also prevents the immune system from getting inflamed and forming scar tissue.

During treatment, our surgeons implant ECM derived from pig tissue that aids in repairing lost muscle. They place the new material at the injury site, where it signals the body to recruit stem cells to rebuild healthy tissue.

This novel treatment, along with intensive physical therapy, can offer hope for people who had prior problems walking, or even standing.

Study Shows Muscle Regeneration by Applying ECM

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine led a 2016 study on ECM.

They found patients who had an ECM implant derived from a pig’s bladder to treat severe muscle injuries showed major improvement in:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Skeletal muscle regeneration

Read more about the study on the benefits of ECM.

Marine Sergeant Ron Strang's Journey to Recovery Made Possible by ECM

J. Peter Rubin, MD, chair of the UPMC Department of Plastic Surgery, treated Marine Sergeant Ronald Strang's left leg after Ron sustained a catastrophic injury while on deployment in Afghanistan. Dr. Rubin implanted an extracellular matrix in Rob's injury to provide a support structure, which helped Ron regain a great deal of his lost mobility.