Growing a New Toe - Science Fiction Become Science Fact

Any one that has knows a family member, friend, or has themselves needed an organ or tissue transplant can tell you it is a very long and difficult process. The tissues needed for sick individuals far outweigh the numbers that are available.  Additionally, while careful screening donor and receipt matches and long term use of anti-rejection drugs have increased the number successful transplantations, it has extended the length of time and overall procurement process.  The ability to ‘grow’ new organs in a lab from your own cells may sound like science fiction, but has great implications for any treatment that requires donor tissue.  While this idea is still being researched and improved on, the use of adult stem cells, or those NOT derived from embryos, is being used more and more for a variety of diseased tissues. Stem cells are not yet ‘programmed’ play any specific role and thus can become any type of tissue or organ.  It was this therapy that made news last month in an article out of Georgia, reporting on the use of this therapy to ‘regrow’ a big toe.  The man did not lose the entirety his toe but did sustain extensive damage after a severe infection with flesh eating bacteria, or necrotizing fasciitis.


Another recent incident in Georgia has made you familiar with flesh eating bacteria. The story of Aimee Copeland has been in the news a lot recently as she continues her battle against necrotizing fasciitis. While rare, this type of infection can have severe and dire consequences.  These types of infections are not the result of a special type of bacteria but rather fairly common bacteria that become trapped in deep layers of tissue spreading quickly and destroying tissues rapidly.  Any wound or injury is at risk of becoming infected and should be monitored by a medical professional early and often.


The man who‘re-grew’ a toe via stem cell therapy injured his toe on a piece of glass.  Anytime you injure your foot with foreign object, whether a splinter, nail, glass, or any object, make an appointment with Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists.  These objects can create a direct route for bacteria to infect deep tissues.  This is only complicated by the rising temperatures this time year.  Don’t risk a life or limb threatening infection with a puncture wound.  Seek out treatment early after any type of foot injury.


Until next time, keep those feet and ankles happy and healthy Austin!


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