[By Annie Lim]
The latest innovation to hit the dermatological market is a “spray-on skin” which coats wounds with a layer of skin cells to boost skin healing and recovery According to US and Canadian researchers, this experimental spray-on skin product may help people with chronic leg wounds heal faster and more effectively than currently available treatments.
The spray-on skin is made up of skin cells suspended in a mixture of different types of proteins and growth factors. In a study, participants had venous leg ulcers, which are shallow wounds as a result of poor blood circulation. The spray was tested on 228 participants who experienced a greater reduction in wound size than those who didn’t use it. The findings, published in the Lancet, showed that ulcers treated with the spray were more likely to heal and did so more quickly.
While this new spray developed by Healthpoint Biotherapeutics of Texas is likely to be costly but experts said faster healing could help save money at the end of the day. Firstly, leg ulcers are notoriously hard to treat. The current best treatment, compression bandages, will heal only about 70% of ulcers after six months. Other options include taking skin from somewhere else on the body and grafting it over the wound. All these are costly options for the patient.
Instead the spray offers a greater ease of use, coating donated skin cells and blood-clotting proteins over the ulcer simply and quickly. In the study, patients who were given the spray-on-skin every 14 days showed the most improvement. The researchers said the size of the wound “began to decrease rapidly” as soon as the treatment started. In the patients who had the spray, 70% were healed after three months compared with 46% who received other treatment.
Healthpoint is not the first company to tap onto the idea of “spray on skin”.
Avita Medical’s ReCell technology uses a postage stamp-sized piece of skin from a patient to heal a page’s-worth of burned skin. This technology could save the lives of burn victims by reducing the risk of deadly infections.
In second and third degree burns, scientists can either graft skin from another part of the victim’s body, or use artificial skin grown in petri dishes, which can come from another donor or from the burn patient. As little as fifteen one-thousands of a centimetre-deep of skin is scraped from an area the size of a postage stamp. In less than a week that stamp-sized donor site of skin can turn into a page’s worth of new, healthy skin, which matches the tone and texture of the original skin more closely than skin grafts usually do.
The technique is based on research conducted by Professor Fiona Wood and Marie Stoner of the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia, which they used to treat burns patients from the Bali 2002 terrorist bomb attack.
While further research is indeed needed before either product is fully ready to be launched for the consumer market, there is certainly a role for such products.
It opens up a world of options for skin conditions that are a result of poor healing, from venous ulcers to burns.
“This treatment provides a cocktail of cells and growth factors to stimulate new collagen, improve wound healing and recovery. This is an exciting area that could have greater applications in the future. It could well be helpful in wound healing and it could be helpful in any area where we need to replace the skin surface,” said Dr Kenneth Lee, medical director of The Sloane Clinic when asked about Healthpoint’s product in the pipeline.
With that, our fingers are crossed as we wait with bated breath for this new innovation that can truly change the way we think about skin healing and recovery.