Stem cell therapy for burn wound repair

In 2017, over 3500 children were admitted to hospital with burns[1]
625 children a month require hospital admission following a burn injury[1]
The most common cause of burns in children are hot drinks, electric cookers, irons and hair straighteners[1]
Burn accidents cost the NHS over £20 million per year[3]

children hospitalised per month
for burn injury

What are burn wounds?

Burns, particularly in children and the elderly, are one of the most common injuries in the home. Many burn victims recover from the skin damage caused without any severe health effects, however more severe cases require immediate medical care to avoid long term complications. Severe burns destroy the skin’s structure, functions and cause the loss of progenitor cells for regeneration.

Burn injuries present a significant strain on the NHS, with 250,000 patients reporting to primary care teams and an additional 175,000 patients presenting to A&E in the UK each year. Nearly 2 million individuals in Europe as a whole are suffering from burns every year[4].

When an injury occurs, it’s important to remember these rules to improve recovery time and reduce the severity of scarring:
Cool – run cool tap water over the burn for 20 minutes
Call – call 999, 111 or your local GP depending on how serious the burn is
Cover – use cling film or a sterile, fluff-free cloth to cover the wound while waiting for assistance

Stem cell therapy research

Recent advances have shown that burns wounds can be healed using stem cell therapy. In addition to promoting better and quicker healing, stem cells have been shown to decrease the rate of inflammation with less scar development and fibrosis[5]. For example, New York Medical College has demonstrated how somatic stem cells isolated from cord blood can accelerate wound healing[6]. In the study, they injected stem cells under the skin of the wounded area, resulting in significantly accelerated wound healing.

While it is not a new idea to use stem cells to cure injuries, testing was mainly experimental until recent years. More sophisticated versions of skin tissue engineering and regenerative wound healing are now available using various types of stem cells.

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