Deepa Kulkarni lost the tip of pinky finger in an door slamming accident, but don’t worry, it grew back. The Davis, California resident was told by emergency room doctors that the amputated digit couldn’t be reattached, and that treatment probably required her to have more of it cut off. Instead, Kulkarni did her own research and successfully regrew her pinky using MatriStem. This is another success story for ACell’s lauded extracellular matrix product which has regrown fingertips across the US and been featured on 60 Minutes and Oprah. Now, CNN is running coverage on Kulkarni’s remarkable story. Check it out in the video below. Are we entering a new age in regenerative medicine? Eh, maybe the tip of one.
As we mentioned in our previous coverage of MatriStem, there’s a lot more to these extracellular matrices (ECM) than pinky fingers. Regrowing the tip of a digit makes for an exciting news program, but it’s very misleading. Current forms of ECM, of which ACell’s MatriStem is just one brand, aren’t going to regrow lost limbs, or even lost fingers. Little pieces (16mm or so) are possible, but most of our wildest dreams about regenerating amputated body parts are still a long ways off. The general public may (or may not) understand that after watching CNN’s coverage of Kulkarni’s experience. The clip actually centers on patient empowerment (which is cool, but not really what I would focus on).
The real story isn’t regrown fingertips but quicker, better healing after surgery. ECM, in powder or sheets, is an FDA approved method of helping the body heal injuries. Probably by attracting stem cells to the area and promoting new growth rather than scar formation. Not to be callous to those who have lost a fingertip, but it’s much more impressive that MatriStem could save lives in the operating room than having it bring a pinky back to (nearly) full length. When CNN, Oprah, and 60 Minutes start covering that angle of MatriStem and other ECM technologies, I’ll do a little dance for joy.
That being said, I’m still doing a much smaller dance of joy for regrowing fingertips. It is really cool to see someone regenerate no matter the scale. And you can bet that if I lost a small portion of my finger I would have my doctor contact ACell and get a hold of some MatriStem. Kulkarni paid $1665 for her treatment. Sounds like a good deal. As these fingertip stories become more prevalent (and it looks like they will) keep in mind that current ECM technology isn’t about sprouting new limbs, it’s about augmenting and advancing surgery so that thousands of lives can be saved through improved healing. Regenerative medicine is already creating new organs, but we need to give it more time before we expect it to reverse all our amputations.
[image credits: Megan Wilkinson Photography, Deepa Kulkarni, ACell]