Victims of severe burns often need skin graft surgeries to speed up the healing process and reduce scarring. Now technologies such as RECELL and denovoSkin promise to advance this process by using less skin to achieve superior results.
Spray skin for burns context
Skin grafting is a procedure commonly used in the treatment of severe burns. It involves taking undamaged skin from the victim and surgically attaching it to the burnt wound to aid the healing process. Fortunately, novel technologies are being deployed to enhance the effectiveness of this process.
The RECELL system involves taking a small mesh graft of healthy skin from the burn victim and immersing it into an enzyme solution to form a suspension of live cells that can be sprayed onto burn wounds. A skin graft the size of a credit card can be used to effectively cover an entire burnt back this way. Moreover, the healing process is reportedly fast, less painful, and faces a reduced chance of infection and scarring.
Another bioengineering marvel is CUTISS’s denovoSkin. Though not precisely a spray-on, it works similarly to reduce the amount of healthy skin graft required. It takes unburnt cutaneous cells, multiplies them, and combines them with a hydrogel resulting in a 1mm thick skin sample of a hundred times greater surface area. The denovoSkin can make several grafts at a time with no manual input. The phase III trials of the machine are expected to conclude by 2023.
Such technologies will democratize the treatment options available for victims of burns or other skin diseases. Successful availability will be celebrated particularly in war zones, given that both technologies do not require excessive manual input except when surgically extracting a part of the healthy skin.
By the 2030s, the pain mitigation and infection reduction aspects of these technologies will eventually result in fewer hospital visits for patients. The survival chances of burn victims will also increase. Likewise, cosmetic surgeries will become more affordable and successful.
Implications of novel skin grafting innovations
Wider implications of spray skin technologies may include:
- The development of novel treatments for rare skin diseases.
- The development of new hybrid treatment methods that combine old methods and new ones to aid healing processes.
- The development of new facial and limb reconstruction techniques, especially for female victims of acid attacks.
- Faster treatment and hence greater security offered to firefighters and other emergency workers.
- The development of new cosmetic surgery options for patients with overly large birthmarks or skin deformities.
- New cosmetic procedures that will eventually allow healthy individuals to choose to replace parts or most of their skin with skin of a different color or tone. This option may be particularly of interest to older patients who want to replace their aged or wrinkled skin with younger, firmer skin.
Questions to comment on
- How fast do you think such technologies can be transported and used within war zones?
- Do you think the treatments will become as democratized as promised?
- What alternative application(s) do you see these technologies experiencing the most demand?