Skin protects the body from bacteria, as well as from water and heat loss, which is why replacing burned tissue is critically important to survival. The current standard of care for burn injuries is to remove the burned tissue and replace it with a skin graft taken from another area of the body. This procedure has not fundamentally changed in over 30 years. Commercially available skin products are limited in size and some require a lengthy preparation time, making them unusable in severe cases.
The Wake Forest-Pittsburgh Consortium is exploring a range of innovative technologies to provide a functional replacement for skin, from new forms of tissue engineered skin to stem cell replacements for skin cells. These projects represent a paradigm shift in the treatment of injured armed forces personnel. Moreover, these technologies will be applicable to many other battlefield wounds that require reconstruction, such as craniofacial, limb and finger injuries, and compartment syndrome. And, because burn injuries affect war fighters and civilians almost equally, advances in care have the potential to benefit thousands of people.
James H. Holmes IV, M.D., Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine