Revolutionary development: The stem cell spray gun treats burns in 1.5 hours.
Doctor Jörg Gerlach, of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine has created a prototype medical device that literally sprays skin cells onto burn victims to re-grow skin.
Once grafts took weeks, but now the skin gun does the work in under two hours and the burns heal within days. It has successfully treated over a dozen patients so far.
Doctor Gerlach has discovered a method which regenerates healthy skin stem cells from the victim and sprays it on the burned skin.
Though scientists have been able to regenerate sheets of skin for decades, it is a lengthy process and the resulting skin is extremely fragile.
Patients are open to dangerous infections as they heal and some burns victims can die while they are waiting, even with the right care and dressing.
The stem cell shooting spray gun treats the skin in 90 minutes and reduces healing time to days.
Stem cells are known for their ability to renew themselves and act as a repair system for the body.
Dr Steven Wolf, of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio said: ‘The standard techniques we have now takes weeks and months and people can die while waiting for the skin to heal.
‘So if we can find a way to get as much normal healthy skin as we want within a week – well that is the holy grail of burn surgery.’
It works by isolating stem cells from healthy parts of the patient’s skin and adding them to a solution which is prepared for spraying.
The cells are then applied to the damaged area via a spray mechanism.
Matthew Uram, a state police officer from Pennsylvania, was one of the first people to be treated by the gun after he received severe second degree burns after attending a friend’s July 5th party.
While he was standing next to the bonfire, someone threw a cup of gasoline over it and the flames leapt onto his body.
He said: ‘The worst part was my face. The whole right side of my face – my ear, my neck, my shoulder and the entire top part of my arm.
‘The arm kinda looked like a piece of char grilled meat, like a hot dog that was left on the grill for too long.’
The doctors told Mr Uram he was a candidate for the new procedure and asked him if he would be interested.
He said: ‘It looked like a gun from Star Wars or something. But I agreed.’
Four days after the stem cell spray treatment, his skin was completely healed.
Doctor Gerlach said: ‘It is like a paint sprayer but you need a more sophisticated, computer-controlled device.
We isolate the stem cells from the healthy part of the skin which can be taken in a water solution and is then prepared for cell spraying.
‘It takes one and a half hours to take the biopsy, to isolate the cells and to spray the cells.’
Mr Uram’s skin is now completely healed with no obvious signs he was ever burned.
He said: ‘They did the procedure on a Friday and my follow up was a Monday and the burns unit said it was completely healed.’
The cell spray gun will be featured on the National Geographic Channel’s How to Build a Beating Heart, which will be shown on Monday February 7.
The program delves into the science of tissue engineering and shows how scientists are beginning to harness the body’s natural powers to grow skin, muscle, body parts and vital organs, even hearts.
Via Daily Mail