NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Growing new muscle could be a huge boon to thousands of soldiers wounded in IED attacks. It could also help accident and trauma victims as well as those injured in sports.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, scientists used stem cells to grow human muscle and that’s just the start of a treatment that could restore function for thousands of seriously injured patients.

Nick Clark’s lower leg was badly damaged in a skiing accident nearly a decade ago.

“Because of complications of that sever break there was a lot of internal bleeding inside these muscle compartments and that caused swelling,” Clark said.

As a result of the accident Clark lost a large amount of muscle.

“I couldn’t push off my left foot at all. I had no balance,” he said.

Clark was one of five patients who took part in an experiment to test a new stem cell technique that starts with connective tissue from pigs.

The procedure allows doctors to form new functional muscle on an injured body part, Dr. Steve Badylak, Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, explained.

“We can take the type of injury that normally would for nothing other than scar tissue and form a brand new skeletal muscle that’s functional,” he said.

Thin sheets of sterile pig material are implanted and coax the patient’s own stem cells into the injury site. Through intense physical therapy the pig material is absorbed while the stem cells are transformed into functioning human muscle.

“They get these signals. They say, ‘okay I get it, I’m supposed to line up like this,’ and they recruit their own new blood supply, their own nerves and they basically start forming new tissue this way. This is a major step forward,” he explained.

Nick said that his balance has improved.

“I wanted to try it. I wanted to see if it works for me and I’m happy that it has,” he said.

Clark can also put weight on his leg, jump, and no longer has to wear an orthotic.

Patients in the study all had injuries that were at least six months old when they had stem cell therapy. The technique may be even more effective in patients who are treated immediately after their injuries.

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