Stem Cell Research Allows for Spray-On Skin to Grow in Days

Stem Cell Research Allows for Spray-On Skin to Grow in Days

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  1. As the largest organ of your body, skin when it is severely burned needs to be replaced quickly and sometimes in large quantities.

    The standard techniques for creating new skin to treat burn victims currently take weeks and sometimes months. The mortality rate of serious burns is due primarily to the infections that the broken skin develops while the victim is waiting for the skin, not realizing the mortal peril.

    Doctors have been searching for a way to get more healthy skin quickly and in large amounts within as close as a week’s time. Dr. Fiona Wood created such a method. As a plastic surgeon who patented spray-on skin for burn victims, she established a new way to create skin for burn victims, but it needed additional application assistance. This is where Jörg C. Gerlach from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine created the Skin Cell Gun, which is a device that allows Dr. Wood’s spray-on skin method to take on a 21st century approach in its application.

    How the Skin Gun Works

    The Skin Cell Gun works as a tool for the purpose of deposition of skin cells onto the wound of a patient. The device itself looks much like a healing device you might see in Star Trek or other science fiction work. The Skin Cell Gun functions like a spray gun that uses computer precision to spray new skin cells onto a burn victim, using the burn victims own stem cells to create the new skin.

    Successful Patients

    One successful case was with Matthew Uram, who is a state police officer for Pennsylvania and as a burn victim is among the first people who have been treated with Gerlach’s Skin Cell Gun. Uram’s second degree burns were extensive after a small bonfire at a party was doused by another person with gasoline, and Uram standing nearby was burned by the flames.

    As a result of the flames, Uram’s whole right side of his face, ear, neck, and shoulder suffered severe second degree burns, which he described as looking like someone had left the hotdog on a grill for too long. Since Uram’s burns were so serious and required major skin repair, the doctors testing the Skin Cell Gun thought that Uram might be a candidate for the spray-on skin procedure using the gun.

    Jörg C. Gerlach describes Skin Cell Spraying as like paint spraying, but that requires a more sophisticated, computer-controlled device. The device requires cells isolated from the healthy part of the skin from the patient’s own cells, which then can be taken in a water solution and that solution is then prepared for cell spraying. The skin cells are taken from the skin, placed in the gun, and sprayed on the patient.

    Issues with Time

    Although scientists have been able to produce thin sheets of skin for several decades, the problem lies with the timeframe; it can take weeks for the manufactured skin to grow, and the new skin that is freshly created is extremely fragile and requires special care. Gerlach’s gun solves both the fragility issue and the issue with timeframe. The entire process of getting the stem cells sample from the patient, preparing the sample, and applying the spray to the patient takes only 90 minutes to accomplish.

    After only 4 days from the single spray-on skin treatment, Matthew Uram’s burns were completely healed. The Skin Cell Gun is still in the experimental phase, but as of February 2011, over a dozen patients have successfully been treated.

    Watch the Video


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