Many people suffer serious burn injuries that not only cause disfigurement, damage organs, cause extensive scarring and are difficult to heal as well These injuries can be a result of accidental fires at the workplace or home, natural fires or war or combat operations, often due to explosive devices. In the last decade there have been many advances in the treatment of burn injuries, leading to faster and better healing.
According to statistics available with the American Burn Association 450,000 people need medical treatment for burns and there are 3,400 deaths every year due to burns of different kinds. These statistics reflect figures of ten years between 2002 and 2012. According to WHO 195,000 deaths globally can be traced to fires and there are many other burn deaths due to other causes, but there are no statistics for those. Other statistics put the death toll even higher.
There are many different kinds of burns, not just burns due to fire; burns can occur due to acid, chemicals, radiation, thermal burns and other causes. Traditional treatments for extensive burns comprise skin grafts taken from other parts of the body, but this is a serious procedure and needs long term hospitalization as well.
Recent military research
At a recent Military Health System Research Symposium, a medical conference sponsored by the Department of Health presented latest research on burn treatments, which have not been the subject of much attention. Doctors from the military and civilian worlds discussed the advances in burn injury research and its treatment. In part this was due to the increasing numbers of military personnel suffering from burn injuries either during action or due to explosive devices that occurred in different parts of the world including Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among the new treatments for burn injuries is spray-on-skin. This consists of a spray that is used on the burnt area that is currently under clinical trials. Part of the funding for the new trial has been done by a US army grant. This process, called ReCell, has been developed by Avita and is a stand-alone treatment. It requires the doctor to harvest a small postage stamp size tissue sample, containing basal stem cells and melanocytes. Trypsin is added to this to dissolve the structure of the cells and the resulting mixture is sprayed on the burn site. It takes just about half an hour to prepare and in less than a week the postage stamp sized harvest grows into a page worth of skin, making healing so much faster and reducing scarring.
While ReCell has already been approved in many countries including Europe, Mexico and Canada among others, it is still undergoing trials in the US and has yet to receive FDA approval.
Other treatments for burn injury patients
A computerized program that accurately measures the fluid intake of burn patients is also under use as the fluid intake plays an important role in patient recovery. Research is also on going on how scars are formed and if the scarring process can be slowed. Skin modifications and reconstructive surgery are also areas where either research is underway or trials are on. Growing human organs in a laboratory environment is also under research and development and scientists have made inroads into this field, too, with some degree of success.
These new developments have applications in many medical treatments including cosmetic surgery, organ damage and others. Even an ordinary minor surgery causes scarring and more complex surgeries cause bigger scars, so a treatment for scar reduction is of great aesthetic value.