Foetal skin cells heal burn wounds in kids

New York:

Genetically engineered tissue dressings derived from foetal skin cells have been used successfully to treat second and third degree burns without scarring in paediatric patients, researchers in Switzerland report.

The use of foetal tissue in wound repair could avoid difficulties of tissue engineering, such as immune rejection, small growth capacity and incompatibility,. “The main advantage was that we could avoid a (skin graft) procedure in all cases,” study co-author Dr Patrick Hohlfeld told Reuters Health.

The research team, based at University Hospital of Lausanne, obtained a 4-cm skin donation from a 14-week aborted male foetus. Cells were expanded in culture and used to seed collagen sheets, and then grown for two more days before the sheets were applied to the burn wounds. The foetal cells were used to treat eight children considered to be candidates for traditional skin grafting, approximately 10 days after their injury. As the cells biodegraded, they were replaced every three to four days.

The average time to healing was 15.3 days after the first cell application. The cosmetic and functional results were excellent in all eight children who had little degradation of the new skin with no retraction or breakdown of the healed surfaces. The one patient who had dark skin had recovery of skin pigmentation.

The researchers estimate that the one foetal skin donation could yield “several million” skin constructs. Hohlfeld considers it possible to obtain effective skin cells from miscarriages of second trimester fetuses. And although foetal skin cells have not yet been used to treat adults, he expects that similar tissue dressing constructs will be successful in treating other types of wounds, such as bedsores and venous leg ulcers.