Cell shooting

Sarah Main fires her knowledge on stem cell guns

13th February 2017

New technology from RenovaCare is proving to be a promising alternative to skin grafts for burns treatment. The SkinGun™ has progressed well through clinical trials, was granted a patent in December of 2016, and is now awaiting FDA approval for marketing. The technology has shown potential for use in burns, wounds, skin diseases, and cosmetic uses such as in acne scarring, and pigmentation disorders. Currently, first-line treatment of burns is skin grafting, which is usually associated with scarring and infection. But the SkinGun™ in a clinical trial in Berlin was shown to be so effective that the skin-graft control group were moved onto the stem cell treatment arm.

SkinGun™ is a type of cytotransplantation, which uses the patient’s own cells to create new tissues. A healthy skin sample less than 2cm2 is taken from the patient by CellMist™ technology, a machine then processes the sample and uses enzymes to remove cells. Only stem cells are isolated and stored as a solution in water. This solution is put into the SkinGun™ and can be sprayed onto wounds by a pressurised air stream. It feels like a water spray to the patient, and evenly spreads the patient’s own stem cells across the target skin. Once adhered, the stem cells can divide and change into all layers of the skin, even including blood vessels. Similar stem cell technology existed prior to his, also produced by RenovaCare, however, it was too bulky or used an air pressure that was too high and damaged the cells on the target area.

Clinical trials so far have shown that the SkinGun™ is much faster than conventional skin grafting. A skin graft can takes time to complete surgery, plus weeks to months for healing, whereas, the new technology can take a skin sample, process it, and apply the new stem cells within 90 minutes. Furthermore, skin can be completely healed within 4 days, reducing the time for chance of injection, and will continue to differentiate to replicate the colour and texture of the patient’s normal healthy skin. Within weeks, a patient can be completely healed with no scarring. The new skin developed from stem cells is also less fragile than grafted skin, and the procedure is significantly less painful.

“The stem cells can divide and change into all layers of the skin, including blood vessels”

So far, this technology has only been tested on deep, second-degree burns. It is understood that it will work on superficial, first-degree burns and other minor damage, but currently it is too expensive to be used for wounds which can heal without treatment. Full-thickness, third-degree burns are too deep for this system to work, as there are no skin tissues remaining for the stem cells to build upon. In most burns cases, dead skin needs to be removed, which the SkinGun™ system is currently unable to do, but this preparation of the damaged area is still required for current procedures. Another major concern is that the long-term stability of the skin has not been evaluated, although current research has demonstrated that stem cells maintain 97% viability, which suggests that they will maintain their capacity to regenerate long-term.

Despite these limitations the technology has proved very promising and is also likely to be applicable to other injury and in reconstruction of other tissues including kidneys and the heart.

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