Spray-On Skin Cells Could Help Burns Heal

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If the new approach speeds patients' recovery time, it might also prove more economical. The average hospital stay for a burn victim can cost up to $3,680 (U.S.) per day and can last for about two weeks.

In contrast, a single spray treatment can cost about $9,000 (U.S.).

"I believe that the speed of healing and the overall functional and cosmetic outcome of resultant burn injuries are greatly improved when cultured cells are used," said Debra Balderson, head of tissue services at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, England.

Balderson may provide the team with cultured cells for the study, but is not otherwise involved in the research.

Even without results from the study, Balderson believes many surgeons already agree on the benefits of the spray-on technique.

"Because of this shared opinion," she said, "we routinely grow, spray, and use skin cells to treat burn injuries in Birmingham."

Fiona Wood, a plastic surgeon who leads the burn unit at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia, says spraying on cells "is routine practice for us here in western Australia."

Along with her colleagues, Wood devised the approach of growing and spraying on extra skin cells nearly a decade ago. The hospital has since used it to treat burns and other scar-forming injuries in more than a thousand patients.

"We are thrilled that the technology is being adopted and explored [in other countries]," Wood said. "We constantly strive to learn from today's experience to enhance tomorrow's performance."

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