ALACHUA – A local biotechnology company helped replace a nerve tissue for a Navy veteran, allowing him to become the first nerve tissue recipient in the Rose Parade.

For nearly a decade, the American Association of Tissue Banks has sponsored the Donate Life Rose Parade float, a memorial to organ and tissue donors. The theme of the 2014 float, “Light up the World,” represented the organization’s goal to save and improve lives through organ and tissue donation.

The 125th Rose Parade took place Jan. 1, 2014, starting at 8 a.m. in Pasadena, Calif.

Former Navy Corpsman Edward Bonfigio was serving in Afghanistan in August 2009 when his unit came under fire. Bonfigio was shot in the leg. After being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he lost the use of his leg.

Due to the injury to his sciatic nerve, doctors told Bonfigio that they would have to amputate his leg. Bonfigio however pushed for an alternative. AxoGen, Inc., from Alachua, answered Bonfigio’s call and replaced his nerve tissue.

Thanks to the replacement tissue, Bonfigio was able to keep his leg. Without AxoGen’s Avance Nerve Graft technology, he would not be able to participate in the activities he does today.

The procedure removed a nerve from another part of his body and used it on the injury site. Since the tissue comes from the patient, the body doesn’t reject it.

“It is an honor to have provided the processed nerve allograft that contributed to saving his leg,” said AxoGen CEO Karen Zadarej in an earlier interview with Alachua County Today.

Since his surgery, Bonfigio was honored on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade and attends Pennsylvania State University, where he is a part of the Paralympics team.

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