A U.S.soldier who had most of his leg muscle blown off in Afghanistan has become the first to see it grow back in a pioneering experimental operation.
Marine Isaias Hernandez lost 70 per cent of his right thigh muscles when an enemy mortar exploded as he tried to carry out repairs to a truck in Afghanistan.
With such severe muscle damage Hernandez would ordinarily have had his leg amputated.
But a re-think in the way soldiers are treated led to the wounded warrior being injected with a growth promoting substance extracted from pig bladders.
Re growth: Corporal Isaias Hernandez, right, at Brooke Army Medical Centre has undergone pioneering surgery
The revolutionary treatment gives hope to the hundreds of maimed veterans returning from conflicts with severe limb trauma.
Stephen Badylak, the tissue engineering director at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh said: ‘It was a remarkable recovery.’
Since the experimental growth hormone was used, Hernandez has regained most of the strength in his right thigh.
The wounded Marine’s recovery is particularly exciting for scientists as it involves the regeneration of skeletal muscle which ordinarily does not grow back.
The new treatment could in theory revolutionise how not just how soldiers are treated, but all potential amputees.
In preparation for the operation, corporal Hernandez was made to build up the remaining 30 per cent of muscle left on the damaged thigh.
Surgeons then sliced into the thigh, placing a thin slice of a substance called extracellular matrix.
The surgery is the result of a $70 million investment by the U.S. military into regenerative medicine research.
Marine Hernandez was 19 when he was gearing up his truck in Afghanistan ahead of a long journey.
As he approached the vehicle an enemy mortar exploded, throwing shrapnel into his exposed body parts.
Fortunately the Marine, he was carrying a TV which shielded the upper half of his body.
Speaking to The Australian, Corporal Hernandez said: ‘Pretty much anything that wasn’t covered, arms and legs, was hit.’