New technique could radically change burn treatment
Burns are among the hardest injuries to treat because of the delicate nature of the skin and the tough job it has -- it is the body's first line of defense from germs.
Currently, burns are treated by skin grafts, in which an area of skin is removed from the burn victim's body and grafted onto the damaged area, according to the Burn Injury Recovery Center's website.
However, a new technique, called ReCell, is being studied by the United States Food and Drug Administration and may radically change burn treatment by spraying the wound site to generate functional skin cells.
Researchers from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center and the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) have started using ReCell by taking a small biopsy from the patients skin and incubating it in a "cocktail of enzymes" for about 20 minutes, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine reports. Keratinocytes -- the body's own regenerative cells that promote healing -- are extracted from the incubated sample.
The keratinocytes are then suspended in a solution which is sprayed on the burn site. The keratinocytes multiple and grown new, healthy skin, the AFIRM reports.
AFIRM said the entire procedure takes about 40 minutes and requires only "the fraction of the time" it takes for traditional grafts and cultured epithelial autographs.
In traditional grafting, an instrument called a power dermatone shaves off layers of healthy skin from a donor site on the patient's body to be grafted onto the burn site, according to the Burn Injury Recovery Center, a web informational site.
The graft's thickness depends on the area of the burn and most grafts are "split," or partial, thickness, the BIRC reports. Large areas may necessitate multiple grafts or a "mesh." In this procedure, dead skin must be removed with the dermatone to prepare the area for the graft.
ReCell is in the middle of its 4-year clinical study -- trials will conclude in 2014. Avita Medical Americas is sponsoring the study in collaboration with the United States Department of Defense, Australia's Royal Perth Hospital, MedDRA Assistance and BioStat International.
The Food and Drug Administration study is comparing the performance of ReCell with that of traditional split-thickness meshed skin grafts for the treatment of second degree burns, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Tampa General Hospital was one of the participating hospitals in the study. For now, they have finished their recruitment of participants, but Rachel Karlnoski, of the hospital's research department, said there may be an opportunity for further studies.
For more information about the clinical trials, visit http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01138917.