ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - It was September, 2010. Manuel Herrera was checking under the hood of a truck when he got his hand caught in a belt. It ripped off the ends of three fingers. He says he was in shock when he pulled out his hand and realized the damage.
A co-worker found his fingertips and Manuel was rushed to St. Louis University Hospital. Dr. Bruce Kraemer, a plastic surgeon checked out the injury. The ends of the fingers were too crushed to be re-attached. He told Manuel that he could cut the fingers back a little more, stitch the ends and let them scar over. A third option involved putting a powder on the raw wound that might regrow the tissue. Manuel decided to give it a try.
The powder Dr. Kraemer suggested was Matristem. It's actually powdered pig bladder. That's right, powdered pig bladder. You have to apply it a couple of times a day, every other day for weeks; even months.
Dr. Kraemer says it works by blocking the normal scarring off process, stimulating cells and promoting the regeneration of tissue.
Manuel tells me it was very painful at first, but it got better and so did his fingers. They started to heal, growing tissue and even the nails. After about eight months, the fingertips had grown back, nails and all.
Manuel says he has normal feeling in the fingers. He said, "They are not perfect looking, but I have them and can do almost everything I could do before the accident.
Dr. Kraemer says doctors are still studying how best to use the powder and on which wounds it works best. That way it can be made available for more patients. He adds, the possibility that it can stimulate regrowth of muscle tissue has the Department of Defense looking at it as a treatment for some war wounds. He says there really are no side effects other than the possibility of an allergic reaction.
Interview: Dr. Bruce Kraemer & Manuel Herrera