MESA, Ariz -- What if there were a way to make your body regrow tissue that had been destroyed or damaged? An East Valley man is alive today thanks to this revolutionary technology.
A couple months ago, taking a walk wasn't easy for Nick Averill.
"I put on about 20 pounds of water weight," he said. "It wasn't a fun time."
The 27-year-old didn't know it at the time, but his heart was starting to fail him. Doctors at Banner Heart Hospital told him he needed to have open-heart surgery to repair one of his valves. The news caught Averill off guard.
"Mostly it was dealing with the shock of having to have a new valve," he recalled.
But rather than take the traditional route of implanting a mechanical valve, chief surgeon Gyu Gang opted for something so cutting edge, only a handful of other people in the world have had it done.
"I thought it was science fiction," Gang said. "It sounds like science fiction.
"I think he described it as 'space age' and it's pretty cutting edge," Averill said.
Gang used parts of a pig intestine, called CorMatrix ECM, to repair Averill's heart.
"When you actually take off all the other layers, it rolls out as a sheet," Gang explained. "So if you put it on a valve, it turns into a valve."
You read right. That sheet of pig intestines will help Averill's body regrow his once- damaged heart valve.
According to CorMatrix, the material "provides a natural bioscaffold matrix that enables the body's own cells to repair and remodel damaged cardiovascular tissue."
"Instead of being something dead and fixed and artificial, that this material will transform over time into this own native valve," Gang said.
Averill says his recovery has been quick and he feels great again.
"Once it regrows my valve, it's my valve," he said. "It's just like I've never had a surgery at all."
Gang believes the possibilities are endless.
"It is amazing," he said. "It is potentially a game changer."
"You kind of think of yourself as the bionic man for a while," Averill said. "But it's something that I hope spreads quickly. It can help a lot of people."
Because his valve will regrow, Averill told us it's unlikely he will ever need another heart surgery.