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ECM Approach to Cell Regeneration

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Back in the 1950s, surgeon and Harvard professor Dr. Alan Spievack began working in the field of cell regeneration. Inspired by the salamander’s ability to re-grow its limbs, he discovered that the basement membrane (the thin sheet of fibers underlying the epithelium tissue of every cell in the body) is responsible for the constructive remodeling of tissue. Dr. Spievack found that when this basement membrane was disrupted, salamanders were unable to regrow their limbs or tails.

This groundbreaking discovery marked a major advance in science’s understanding of how wounds heal, and how that healing can be enhanced. In fact, Dr. Spievack’s research on extracellular matrix (ECM) constructs comprised of the basement membrane of the mammalian urinary bladder inspired the founding of ACell, Inc., a company focused on the development of regenerative medicine products based on a proprietary urinary bladder matrix (UBM) technology.

“Our UBM platform is based on an ECM made from porcine urinary bladder,” says Dr. Thomas Gilbert, PhD, the company’s Vice President of Research and Development. “The application of UBM to a variety of tissues and organs has been described extensively in scientific and veterinary clinical literature. We sell our products under the MatriStem brand name. These products – ECM scaffolds that include a distinctive epithelial basement membrane, and other collagens, carbohydrates and proteins – are resorbed and replaced by the patient’s body following implantation.

“MatriStem products undergo relatively quick resorption with minimal inflammation,” Dr. Gilbert continues. “This facilitates the body’s ability to replace the scaffold with its own tissue, similar to the tissue being repaired. The formation of site-appropriate tissue by the body through the process of constructive remodeling avoids the complications associated with encapsulation of a scaffold, namely infection, and the replacement of the scaffold with scar tissue. This represents a key advantage over other treatment modalities and offers treatment alternatives for complex wound care and surgical soft tissue repair.”

“Regenerative medicine has become more commonplace in today’s veterinary practice,” adds Dr. Jeff Wood, DVM and Veterinary Consultant to ACell. Dr. Wood has been offering ECM technology at Northside Veterinary Hospital, in Hillsdale, Michigan, since 2002. “I use MatriStem in either powdered or sheet form in most body systems, including corneal ulcers, tendon and ligament repair, abdominal surgery, fracture and skin repair….The matrix is inserted into the affected area, and the vascular response begins within four hours of implantation….The new tissue is incorporated as the original scaffold resorbs and is eliminated from the body. Unlike synthetic grafts, MatriStem degrades, leaving site-specific, healthy host tissue.

“Using the ECM approach to regeneration allows for a more predictable outcome, and a more cost-effective, often oneapplication process,” Dr. Wood concludes. “The powdered preparation allows one to suspend the material in saline and inject the suspension into the area of concern, an advantage when treating hard-to-bandage or highly movable areas as well as joints. I found that injecting into end stage, arthritic coxofemoral joints gave an average of five months of increased range of motion and overall pain relief. This treatment allows the practitioner to handle an increased number of cases that were once referred, thereby increasing overall case volume and successful outcomes.”