Treatment for severe burns usually includes skin grafts and months to years of therapy, all of which can be excruciatingly painful. Now, a new product that may change all that- a way to regenerate a patient’s own fully-functional skin in the lab. So far, it’s worked on pig skin, but SkinTE could be life-changing for burn patients.
“I just went to work one morning like, and turned the equipment on, and it flashed the whole first floor that I was in the middle of,” James Hillman explains.
A propane explosion four years ago left James Hillman with second and third degree burns on over half his body.
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Hillman continues, “I remember laying there and like, seeing my tendon in my hands it was burned so bad I had skin dripping off of it.”
James spent three months in a burn unit. He had numerous skin grafts, where doctors move healthy skin over burns, and years of painful therapy. Biotech company PolarityTE has developed a treatment to grow a patient’s own skin, potentially eliminating the need for skin grafts. A medical professional takes a two centimeter graft from the patient. And ships it off in the SkinTE box to a lab where the skin is grown in a 3D system on a platform, in a matter of hours
“It’s then returned to the patient and it literally grows on the patient so the patient is used as its own medium,” Stephen Milner, MD, BDS, DSc, FRCSE, FACS, Chief Clinical Officer at PolarityTE, Inc. explains.
The skin regenerates to full thickness, fully functional skin with new hair follicles in about three weeks.
“What’s so amazing to me is that one you won’t need all those donor sites. So it does away with all that extra part of the body being scarred,” Linda Ware, OT, CHT, Coordinator of Burn Rehab for Johns Hopkins Burn Center says.
Hillman said, “Oh, it’s mind-blowing, so exciting. I mean not to have the skin grafts that I have.”
James is studying to be a burn nurse and someday, maybe helping patients with SkinTE.
SkinTE is registered with the FDA, which means it is available in the U.S. There will be a limited release in 15 centers around the country, and a wider release next year. PolarityTE also hopes to begin a pilot human clinical trial later this year although that’s not required by the FDA.