Regrowing Human Muscle

Last week it was wearable robots serving as a kind of exoskeleton that could help restore mobility after injury, and Sunday’s New York Times brings us actual human muscle regeneration using an extracellular matrix from a pig.

Obviously I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not a research scientist, so maybe this will all just come to nothing. But it’s yet another reminder that the discussion about costs in health care policy and health economics suffers from a lot of fatal ambiguities. If extracellular matrix treatments of serious muscle injuries become popular and are both slightly more expensive and dramatically more effective than previous treatments, that’s going to push aggregate spending up. At the same time, it’ll make health care spending much more cost effective than it currently is. The latter seems to me to be the much more important thing—cost-effective means of promoting good health seem to me to be the kind of thing we would rightly want to spend tons of money on. But a lot discussion is myopically focused on overall nominal spending volumes rather than efficacy issues.