Boy, I Sure Hope This Pans Out:

BBC reports (check out the video at that page for "before" and "after" pictures):

The photos of [Lee Spievak's] severed finger tip are pretty graphic. You can understand why doctors said he'd lost it for good.

Today though, you wouldn't know it. Mr Spievak, who is 69 years old, shows off his finger, and it's all there, tissue, nerves, nail, skin, even his finger print....

Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder — or pixie dust as he sometimes refers to it while telling his story.

Mr Speivak's brother Alan — who was working in the field of regenerative medicine — sent him the powder.

For ten days Mr Spievak put a little on his finger.

"The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger.

"It took about four weeks before it was sealed."

Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement."

The "pixie dust" comes from the University of Pittsburgh, though in the lab Dr Stephen Badylak prefers to call it extra cellular matrix....

Now if only he could regrow the "." after the "Mr". Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

UPDATE: "Junk science," reports an English professor of hand surgery. "It looked to have been an ordinary fingertip injury with quite unremarkable healing. All wounds go through a repair process." Well, rats. I still hope the story pans out, though this criticism suggests it might not.

FURTHER UPDATE: Commenter PatHMV (Stubborn Facts) reports that Scientific American also mentioned the story, and reported that "the injury was treated with a protein powder that might have aided regeneration by acting as a scaffold for regrowing tissues" -- not a ringing endorsement, but also a suggestion that this isn't just junk science.

Dave N (mail):
Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

I haven't seen the video yet (my office firewall is blocking it) so I don't yet know whether that was the worst pun of all time or not.
5.1.2008 5:45pm
Great. Now they can stop making circular saws with that extra button you have to bush (requiring you to use two hards) before you can start it.
5.1.2008 5:45pm
steven lubet (mail):
I believe that standard usage in the U.K. omits the "." after Mr (and Dr).
5.1.2008 5:47pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
And I have a perpetual motion machine in my garage. I tried it last week and it worked... 110% efficient.
5.1.2008 5:50pm
Md Esq (mail):
The product is called ACell. My vet uses a lot. My horse had a really bad cut on her ankle joint that was very difficult to heal because of the movement of the joint. My vet sewed a piece of ACell into the wound and it healed in a miraculous way. It can also be injected in a powder form to help ligaments heal and regrow. I'm waiting for it to be approved in humans.
5.1.2008 5:55pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I think the lack of period comes from the French, who don't put a period after abbreviations which keep the last letter of the original word: M. Curie, Mme Curie, Dr Curie.
5.1.2008 6:01pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Steven Lubet: I believe you are correct.

Tony Tutins: Well, how about M'r then? Or M'r's? OK, maybe not.
5.1.2008 6:13pm
What? Are we assuming this is a hoax? I say, if this is true, then it is truly amazing. Almost every day, I find something on this world wide web that amazes and inspires me. Today, this is the thing.
5.1.2008 6:17pm
Syd (mail):
Apparently the name should be Spievack. And Alan does indeed work for ACell.
5.1.2008 6:28pm
General Disarray:
I read this article earlier today and really couldn't decide what to make of it. I figured there was a non-trivial chance that it'd turn out to be a hoax. I'm starting to think it's not.
5.1.2008 6:36pm
Gaius Marius:
I bet John Wayne Bobbitt wishis this pixie dust was available when he most needed it.
5.1.2008 6:38pm
CaptainVictory (mail):
The period is also commonly excluded in military writing (at least in the USAF, where I was).
5.1.2008 7:02pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
But Capt. Vict., isn't that because the Mil. uses all caps for ABRV words?
5.1.2008 7:09pm
DensityDuck (mail):
This was just on Modern Marvels' "Pig" program; it's pig intestine, treated to form a collagen network that promotes cellular growth. It's like tomato stakes for your flesh.
5.1.2008 7:16pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
UPDATE: "Junk science," reports an English professor

What did he do, a critical theory exposition of the hermeneutics of tissue regrowth? A sophisticated breakdown of the lexicon of imperialism utilized in the press release?
5.1.2008 7:16pm
I saw a comment by a hand surgeon and he was underwhelmed. He said the bone was not involved in this traverse amputation and he would normally expect healing to do exactly what this fellow is claiming. Without pixie dust, tho that may speed up the process.

On a personal note I ran my circular saw down the tip of the first finger on my left hand. Alongside the bone. At the doc-in-the-box the doc gave me the choice of a orthpedic surgeon, who he said would amputate the joint, or a hand surgeon who would not. Not a tough choice the hand surgen just bandaged it up, gave me antibiotics and said to wait. It grew back and took a couple years to get innervation and feeling back in it. It still feels a bit odd but it's all there with a complete fingerprint.

So I am underwhelmed too.
5.1.2008 7:35pm
Geez I need to read these before posting them and looking illiterate.
5.1.2008 7:36pm
tenebrous (mail):
I noted that the finger was chopped about midway thru the bone. I don't know a lot of medicine - but it seems to me that without the tip of the bone the finger is not going to look that normal is it?

agesilaus: So you are underwhelmed by a technology that produced a powder that performed in FOUR weeks what it took you 104 weeks to do?
I think you missed the point of the procedure.
5.1.2008 8:17pm
Almost certainly a hoax, or at least an exaggeration. It sounds like the plot of a Marvel comic from the '60s.
5.1.2008 8:22pm
Indga (mail):
Here's the upside: Islamic terrorists will never use this cuz the technology involves material from a pig. ROFLMAO!!!!
5.1.2008 8:48pm
Following the standard Marvel storyline, he'll be able to point at things and zap them soon.

Any day now.
5.1.2008 8:52pm
Interestingly, as the powder is not vetted for human use, is Dr. Badylak in violation of the law by passing it to his brother?
5.1.2008 8:55pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
There was an article on this earlier this year or last year in either Esquire or Rolling Stone. It's a longer, more involved article and the advances sound more promising than the naysayers indicate. Intestinal (and apparently bladder) linings are perpetually replaced and the powder made from them seems to be able to trigger this response in other tissues.
5.1.2008 9:25pm
Waldensian (mail):
This pixie dust is really good news, because we know for a fact that God hates amputees.
5.1.2008 9:55pm

Following the standard Marvel storyline, he'll be able to point at things and zap them soon.

Any day now.

Actually, in the Marvel story the scientist turned into a big lizard, since he was using lizards in his research because they regrow their tales. I suppose that means in this case that the scientist will turn into a pig.
5.1.2008 10:19pm
ithaqua (mail):
There's a Popular Science article I read - couldn't find it online, but it was about salamander limb regeneration and the attempts to duplicate it in humans - which mentioned, as an example of how regeneration is possible in humans, fingertips specifically; fingertips do grow back naturally, prints and all. So, yeah.
5.1.2008 10:24pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
This story was in Scientific American last month; I assume they checked it out a bit more thoroughly than the BBC.
5.1.2008 11:03pm
Mackenzie (mail) (www):
I think the rubbish part is that the powder has much to do with the regrowth. The SciAm article clarifies that this is a normal process in humans, but is limited to the tip of fingers. The problem has been that, historically, wounds that would have been able to be fully regrown were treated by stitching a flap of skin over the stump. This interferes with the natural process and prevents regrowth. Better to just let the finger do its thing.

As far as the powder, I suspect that Neosporin would work just as well.
5.2.2008 12:06pm
5.3.2008 12:08pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
I'm not sure that I would let little problems like "for veterinary use only" stop me if it were able to improve healing as rapidly as reported....

And I wish they'd get cracking on a way to grow teeth back!
5.4.2008 12:21am