Traditionally, treatment for severe second-degree burns consists of adding insult to injury: cutting a swath of skin from another site on the same patient in order to graft it over the burn. The process works, but causes more pain for the burn victim and doubles the area in need of healing. Now a relatively new technology has the potential to heal burns in a way that's much less invasive than skin grafts. With just a small skin biopsy and a ready-made kit, surgeons can create a suspension of the skin's basal cells--the stem cells of the epidermis--and spray the solution directly onto the burn with results comparable to those from skin grafts.
|Spray-on skin: In a unique treatment for second-degree burns,
surgeons harvest a small number of skin cells through a skin biopsy,
suspend them in solution, and then spray the resulting mixture onto a
burn wound. Once in place, skin stem cells, called basal cells,
proliferate to create a new layer of skin. |
The cell spray is intended to treat severe second-degree burns, in which the top two layers of skin are damaged but the subcutaneous tissue is left intact. Third-degree burns, which are more severe, still require a skin graft. The spray, already approved for use in some countries, has garnered interest from the United States Army, whose Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine is funding a trial, slated to begin before the end of this year, of more than 100 patients.