Artificial skin successfully constructed using stem cells
Source: ameriburn.org, National Business Group on Health
Burns are one of the most common household injuries, especially among children. The term “burn” means more than the burning sensation associated with this injury. Burns are characterized by severe skin damage that causes the affected skin cells to die.
Most people can recover from burns without serious health consequences, depending on the cause and degree of injury. More serious burns require immediate emergency medical care to prevent complications and death.
The other primary form of skin damage is a wound, which is a type of injury which tends to happen relatively quickly. When this occurs, the skin is torn, cut, or punctured (an open wound), or where blunt force trauma causes a contusion (a closed wound).
A significant portion of wounds are minor and can be dealt with through the natural healing processes of the body, however with an increasingly aging population there has been a significant growth in the numbers of chronic wounds.
In the United States, chronic wounds affect around 6.5 million patients. It is claimed that an excess of US$25 billion is spent annually on treatment of chronic wounds and the burden is growing rapidly due to increasing health care costs, an aging population and a sharp rise in the incidence of diabetes and obesity worldwide.
Research Into Stem Cell Treatment
Recent developments have demonstrated that there is the potential for the use of stem cell therapies for both burns and wounds.
Burn healing involves a series of complex processes which are subject to intensive investigations to improve the outcomes, in particular, the healing time and the quality of the scar. Burn injuries, especially severe ones, are proving to have devastating effects on the affected patients. Stem cells have been recently applied in the field to promote superior healing of the wounds. Not only have stem cells been shown to promote better and faster healing of the burn wounds, but also they have decreased the inflammation levels with less scar progression and fibrosis. And now, encouragingly, the use of adult stem cells, especially mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), is becoming more realistic in burn treatments.
Researchers are confident that stem cells — with their unparalleled regenerative capacity and the flexibility to grow into hundreds of different types of cells — can help.
Stem cells have been explored as therapies for wound healing for years by research teams around the globe. The challenge is to identify which stem cells are best suited for the job and which signals will be able to coax them into becoming all the components of the skin. Also, reliably growing and expanding stem cells for topical applications has been a challenge because it can take millions of cells to cover a larger area of skin.
Stem cell research for wound healing is moving along a number of different routes, some of which have been translated into early Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. The majority of these are testing the safety of stem cells, and the outlook is promising.
Protect Their Future Health
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