Scientists Develop New Treatment for Severe Burn Grafting
A new technique for skin grafting can help improve the look of post-op scarring.
When treating large burns, most physicians develop a wound care plan that involves the use of split-thickness skin grafts. Also referred to as STSGs, these specific grafts involve making use of both the epidermis and segments of the dermis and are created through the use of a skin mesh device. These grafts are the preferred approach for burns for a number of reasons, including the size and thickness of each graft and the re-harvesting rate (as low as six weeks in some patients’ cases).
However, as with all forms of skin grafts, the STSG does carry its own inherent risk of scarring, but perhaps not for long. As part of a new study published in the journal Cell Transplantation, researchers have developed a new treatment that can heal more effectively than traditional grafts.
Expansion in care
The innovative approach is the result of a 40-patient clinical trial from doctors and other researchers at the VU University Medical Center in The Netherlands. The study involved treating patients with serious, large-scale burns. To build upon standard grafts, the research team also made use of cultured proliferating epidermal cells taken from a small donor site. From there, cells are seeded inside of a collagen carrier, which would theoretically improve the overall rate of healing. It was the use of the carrier, the researchers noted, that helped to bolster the cell structure and keep the ECs sturdy following movement from the donor site into the final graft. Because physicians graft ECs directly to the skin, according to doctors, the carrier acted as a kind of makeshift wound dressing, regulating moisture and preventing bacterial spread.
So the question begs, just how effective is this modified approach?
“The rate of epithelialization in the experimental treatment was statistically significantly better when compared to the standard treatment,” said study co-author Dr. Esther Middelkoop. “We also established improved pigmentation for the wounds treated with cultured ECs.”
By using autologous undifferentiated cells, the research team was able to reduce the rate of rejection between donor cells and also further minimize the time it took to culture the proper EC samples. The team also explained that they were able to achieve wound closure in far less time, cutting the span from seven to five days total. They also found far better ratings in both overall donor safety as well as the general quality and size of individual scars.
More than just improving patients’ cosmetic outlook, the collective noted that reducing the appearance of scars had other benefits as well. Specifically, it saves patients money because these people don’t require extended hospital stays or pricey reconstructive therapies. Though the same team plans to expand its research into further scar-reducing techniques, Dr. Shinn-Zong Lin, the co-editor-in-chief for Cell Transplantation, told News-Medical that this therapy could go a long way in further improving the lives of severe burn patients.
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