Are You Ready? (cont.)

The Body Shop

THE FUTURE Tissue Regeneration Inc., a bioengineering company in Medford, Massachusetts, has developed the ability to grow new human connective tissue. After seeding a silk-fiber mold with donor cells, company scientists cook them for a month in a bioreactor. The resulting ligament is then surgically installed. Company president Greg Altman, 27, envisions that, in five to ten years, such off-the-shelf replacement parts could "give your body a complete overhaul."

WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU Faster recovery and less time in rehab. Upon FDA approval of Altman's method—which could happen as early as 2008—the current six- to eight-month recovery time for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery could drop to six weeks. "A torn ACL used to be a career-ending injury for an athlete," says Altman, "but we're making it a partial-season injury." UNTIL THEN Vail's Steadman-Hawkins Clinic leads the ACL-recovery race with an arthroscopic procedure called "the healing response." Instead of attempting complete reconstruction, doctors poke holes in the femur above the torn ligaments, creating a blood clot that naturally heals the ACL, with full recovery in about six months.

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