"I knew I was onto something here and I realized we could do this with all tissues and organs."
Using leftover parts from a local butcher's shop, Jakus and professor Ramille Shah began testing a special mixture.
They removed the animal cells from specific organs, like livers and hearts, dehydrated the organs to form powder then used liquid to cast into sheets which literally becomes "tissue paper".
"And over time, the ultimate goal is to have that material completely replaced by natural tissue," explained Northwestern University professor Ramille Shah.
For example, a cardiac surgeon using the cardiac tissue paper would cut a patch to fit the damaged area, so it needed to be doctor-friendly.
"They have to like the way it feels and it has to kind of fit in with their general routine of surgical procedures."
Muscles torn during battle, open wounds, or damaged organs: these could all be healed with the help of paper-thin material.
Think origami for organs.
Origami is the traditional Japanese art form of folding paper. The researchers' goal was to make the paper easy for doctors to apply.
"And in most cases a surgeon won't form an origami bird and implant that," said Adam Jakus, chief technology officer for the company created by the Northwestern researchers, Dimension INX. "But the ability to show that we can create something as complex as an origami bird means that we can definitely create the folds necessary for a surgeon to implement it surgically."
Cutting-edge medicine that may give surgeons maximum flexibility.
MUSCLES AND INJURY: Muscle heals very differently than bone. If you fracture a bone, it will heal thoroughly as long as it is set and fixed in place properly. It may even become stronger than it was before the injury. Muscles, however, do not actually heal with muscle tissue but with foreign substances including collagen. The resulting scar tissue is weaker, less elastic, and prone to re-injury and once a muscle is damaged it can become the source of a great deal of pain. Sprains and strains are a cause of impairment and pain, but are often also poorly diagnosed and inadequately managed. The standard medical response to muscular injuries is mostly pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and rest. Medication does little more than numb the pain signals and suppress inflammation, and these are symptoms being treated instead of the injury itself.
The researchers say they are about three to five years away from developing tissue papers that could be used in humans for muscle repair and regeneration. Paper for use in organs, like ovaries, would be closer to a decade away.
Researchers say the timeline primarily depends on funding.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.