Dr. Kevin Foster is the director of the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center and says a clinical trial going on there now is offering new hope to burn patients.
"The first time I heard about it, I said ‘No…no way’." Foster is talking about a spray, which is applied over burn wounds. "I went to the investigators meeting about a year ago now and I saw what they were doing and thought this might actually work."
It’s called ReCell, and it solves many of the most difficult problems doctors encounter when treating burn wounds, according to Foster.
"For patients with a large percentage of the body burned, it can be really difficult to find enough skin to cover them with their own skin. In fact, oftentimes that is a limiting factor.
With the new procedure we can get a skin graft that is much much smaller. We obtain the skin graft and then we physically disrupt the cells. We use a scalpel and we chop the cells up into very small pieces then we put them in an enzyme solution and the enzyme separates the cells into individual cells.
Then (we) filter it and then re-suspend the cells in a solution to make the spray and spray it on. Those cells are able to cover a much larger surface area, and they grow together and they form skin that is almost as good as the original skin."
It only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and apply the spray, which should also cut down on infections.
"Oftentimes, most of the time, when burn patients succumb to their disease, when they die from their burns, they die because of infections,” Dr. Foster says. “The sooner we can get those wounds closed and attach skin over the top of it, the less chance there is for infection.
Theoretically they will probably grow a little bit faster and hopefully with less chance of losing the graft. One of the things with a skin graft is there are a lot of things that can interfere with it. Just movement of the patient or if there is an underlying infection or if you develop fluid collections, all of those things can interfere with skin grafts."
All of which can also reduce scarring. "The sooner you get wounds covered and closed, the less scarring you are going to have on those wounds." The Arizona Burn Center is one of a handful of hospitals where ReCell is in trials for FDA approval and Dr. Foster says it has already been used on several patients and is showing great promise in every spritz. "So we are really eager to get through this trial and start using it clinically here. It is very exciting, yeah. "