I first learned of ACell several years ago in early 2008 when I watched a segment on CBS news. A man had severed his finger tip off while working on his model plane. The tip was severed from the first knuckle, behind the fingernail. The claim was that in four weeks the entire tip regrew with all the blood vessels, nerves and even the full fingernail. This was a pretty big story when it first aired and it got a lot of coverage. This was really exciting.
So what is ACell? ACell is part of a field called regenerative medicine and in fact ACell helped to start the field itself. Regenerative medicine is the field of inducing or coaxing the body to heal itself faster and better than what would normally be expected. ACell produces a product called “Matristem” which is derived from treated porcine (pig) bladder. The idea is that the treated porcine bladder powder helps the skin and tissue to form a mesh and adult stem cells are harnessed to help the body heal faster. In addition, the extracellular matrix formed by Matristem encourages the stem cells to do what stem cells do, adapt to the environment they are in regrow tissue that was been damaged with little to not scar formation. In the case of the subject of the CBS article, the tissue was a severed finger.
The next item of interest came when people started talking about ACell and how it has helped animals with major wounds grow back not just tissue that was missing or damaged without scar tissue but also the hair that was on the tissue orginally as well. THIS is what got people really excited about ACell because some people were saying that it should have the potential for regrowing hair. I wasn’t so optimistic but I was hopeful in ACell for it’s scar treatment potential. I first called ACell to discuss this idea soon after the CBS story and I spoke to the then vice presidenty of the company, now the CEO, Rodney Bosley. In short, he admitted that the company had never thought of the potential for hair restoration but he felt that it had potential. Till this point they were only concerned about getting FDA approval for human usage and to help burn victims and even soldiers that had lost limbs. At the time they were in a lawsuit with the University of Pennsylvania and this was temporarily preventing them from moving forward with FDA clearance. Eventually they won and were able to bring ACell Matristem to market for human use.
The hope of most everyone in the industry and patients was that with minor wound damage from micro-needling that the application of Matristem powder would help to grow new hair. I personally felt this was silly and thought that the real potential was in wound healing. That’s what it was made for and the trick would be to figure out how to utilize it properly. Unfortunately, at the time, ACell did not have clearance in Canada so the clinci I worked for could not experiement with it but other clinics did. Absolutely nothing developed along the lines of hair regrowth, per my predictions, but there was some moderate success with donor wound management and healing. Unfortunately, there were only some minor breakthroughs with ACell for use in wound healing but there was a lot learned. ACell can have benefits with other treatments such as platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) to help induce early hair transplant growth or even to prevent post-hair transplant shock loss based on reports of various clinics that use it.