Spray-on Skin for Burn Victims

By Jasmeet Duggal

If you could imagine being burned severely to the point where you require medical intervention, would you know what the surgical procedure would have in store for you? A segment of undamaged skin from your body would be used. Often the skin is stretched two to three times to cover the burned area. Your recovery will take several weeks, depending on the size of the affected area. And no matter now phenomenal your surgeon may be, the scarring is more than likely.

I hope the descriptive introduction conveyed the first line of therapy for treating burn victims. Now could you imagine bypassing the skin grafting all together? That possibility will soon become a reality. Jörg Gerlach from the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine has developed a novel method of treating burns.

Just as in traditional grafting, a piece of undamaged skin from the patient is used as the source of skin. The elemental components, specifically the stem cells, are extracted and put into solution.

Spraying skin cells is not a novel technique on its own. The medical marvel is the device used in the application of the stem cells. The spray gun used is an electronically-controlled pneumatic device that allows for the spraying of the delicate stem cells without damaging them.

The new method has several advantages as compared with traditional grafting techniques, including the fact that it covers 20x the size of health skin that is used as the source and results in less scarring.

Gerlach and his colleagues have developed a prototype of the device and it is currently in the process of undergoing clinical trials.

Jasmeet Duggal is graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is currently the Communications Officer for the Altitude Accelerator, a role which has allowed her to engage in the startup culture and entrepreneurship. In her future endeavors, Jasmeet hopes to pursue a career in business development in the life sciences.

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