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Are Stem Cells the Answer to Burn-healing?


While some burns will hurt for a second and leave no damaging effect (other than mentally), prolonged exposure to extreme heat can sometimes lead to the need for treatment.

Burns can be anywhere on your body and affect people in different ways; with some choose to wear their scars with pride, others choose to hide them. In a lot of cases, the ability to do daily tasks can become a problem.

A new technique using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is being used to generate new skin a lot faster; with the obvious benefit of less waiting time for patients and a skin grown that the body adapts to and recognises without having to do a skin graft. MSCs are the very cells we isolate from teeth at BioEden, you can find out more about their potential on our treatment page. Stem cells have tremendous promise to help us understand and treat a range of diseases, injuries and other health-related conditions.

A new development called SkinGun, by med-tech company RenovaCare, sprays a liquid suspension of a patient’s stem cells onto a burn or wound in order to regrow the skin.

Dr. Jörg Gerlach, a German researcher has become the first person to use a patient’s own stem cells to directly heal the skin; a new technique that reduces healing time, has minimal complications and offers satisfying outcomes with no scars. It sounds too good to be true but stem cell therapy is showing early signs of its promising use and versatility in the medical world.

Lieutenant Colonel Professor Steven Jeffery, consultant plastic surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, said technologies alongside stem cell advances, had the potential to transform the treatment of large burns. He added: ‘With a big burn, it’s a race between a graft getting a hold and infection killing you.’ Stem-cell methods helped cut this risk by quickening healing and providing a source of new skin.

When burn victims need a skin graft they typically have to grow skin on other parts of their bodies. This can take weeks or months to complete in a painful procedure that creates additional wounds and restrict movement with the patient. This can become a serious problem as one of the reasons people can suffer with grave consequences is because of the infections that develop while waiting for the skin to heal or for new skin to grow.

RenovaCare CEO Thomas Bold says, “The current standard of care is just horrible. We are part of regenerative medicine – it is the medicine of the future and will be life-changing for patients.”

One of the first to receive this experimental treatment was United States Trooper Matt Uram, stem cells were used to treat his burns and are now completely unnoticeable. There is no scar tissue or pigment discolouration, and the regenerated skin even tans. Uram says, “If I show someone where I was burnt, I bet $100,000 they couldn’t tell,” he says. “There’s no scars, no residual pain; it’s like the burn never happened.”.

Beyond regulatory matters, there are also limitations to the technology that makes it unsuitable for competing with treatments of third-degree burns, which involve damage to muscle and other tissue below the skin. Still, stem cell researcher Sarthak Sinha believes that while the SkinGun may not be that advanced yet, it shows the vast potential of this form of regenerative medicine. “What I see as the future of burn treatment is not skin repair but rather functional regeneration of skin”.