Dutch researchers grow skin from burn patients’ own cells

New treatment for burn wounds that uses patient's own skin cells (Picture: Netherlands Burns Foundation)New treatment for burn wounds that uses patient's own skin cells (Picture: Netherlands Burns Foundation)

Dutch researchers has discovered a new method to treat burn wounds by using a patient's own skin cells. The patient's skin cells are cultivated and then transplanted into a new kind of "biological bandage" that is placed over the wounds. This new method leads to better healing and less severe scarring.

The study was done by the Netherlands Burns Foundation and led by doctor-researcher Kim Gardien. "These results bring the Netherlands one step closer to our common dream: healing burns without scarring", said Prof Dr. Esther Middelkoop, professor of skin regeneration and wound healing.

The common and necessary treatment method used on patients with large and deep burns, is the removal of the burned tissue and transplantation of healthy skin, often from a donor. While this treatment is effective, it often leads the patient with quite severe scarring. These scars can be bumpy, discolored, itchy and cause contractions of the skin at the joints, which makes movement impossible and reparation surgery necessary.

This new method improves the quality of scars. In this method, researchers collect a small piece of the patient's healthy skin. They isolate the epidermal cells and divide them in a seed tray. After about 12 days they have enough cells to transfer to a much larger surface area made of a biodegradable material. This 'biological bandage" is then placed over the skin graft.

As this plaster is made of the patient's own skin cells, there is no rejection reaction in the body and the body does not react with an immune response. The results of this study shows that the wound heals faster with this new method. And the thickness, flexibility, bumpiness and color of the scar is significantly improved.

"It is remarkable that particularly pigmentation (both pigment and color) of the scar improves and it therefore bears more similarity to the healthy skin of the patient", Gardien said. "For pigment abnormalities in scars there are still very few proven effective therapies available."