By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave
One headline captured the claims this way: “Doctors have invented a revolutionary skin spray-gun that heals severe burns within days.”
Although experimental, twelve burn victims have already been successfully treated with a “skin gun” that takes adult stem cells from a burn victim’s only healthy skin and sprays it on to the damaged area. The skin gun will be featured tonight in a programme called “How to Build a Beating Heart,” which examines modern techniques of tissue engineering on the National Geographic Channel.
The buzz generated by what would be a revolutionary change in the way burn victims are treated came last week with a video excerpt from tonight’s episode of National Geographic Channel’s Explorer. It examines the work of Dr. Jörg C. Gerlach and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. It looks for all the world like a some what more sophisticated version of what you’d use to spray paint on your living room wall.
[You can watch the excerpt.]
Gerlach tells National Geographic Channel that the process involves “isolating stem cells from a healthy patch of the patient’s skin, putting those cells in a water solution, and then spraying the mixture back on,” according to Stephen Adams. “After being sprayed, the patient’s wound is covered with a special dressing that provides glucose, sugar, amino acids, antibiotics and electroytes to the treated area, to provide nutrition and clean the wound until the stem cells get established.” The whole process takes 90 minutes and burns have been reportedly achieved in as few as four days.
The largest flaw of existing burns treatment is that the patient can die from infection in the time it takes to grow new layers of skin in the lab.
On the video excerpt, Dr Steven Wolf, of the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research , in San Antonio, Texas, says, “If we can find a way to get normal healthy skin, as much of it as we want , within a week—that’s the holy grail of burn surgery.”