Severe burns are among the most painful injuries to recover from. Although progress has been made in developing new treatments for burn victims, including new skin grafting and artificial skin technologies, scientists believe that stem cells could provide a new way to regenerate functional skin following burn injuries.
Human and Social Costs
According to the Sandia National Laboratories, there are over 100,000 burn victims annually in the U.S. The in-hospital days spent in burn treatment almost equal one million. This represents a sizeable $2 billion in annual health care costs. The other devastating toll is the pain, disfigurement, and emotional costs of treatment for patients and their families.
The Potential for Stem Cell Cures and Therapies
Scientists have already found that skin progenitor stem cells (keratinocyte progenitors) in adult human skin have a significant capacity for growth and tissue-regeneration. It may also be possible to use pluripotent stem cells to generate healthy new epidermal or dermal skin cells.
Burn victims could also benefit from a developing field of stem cell therapy called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. In this process, the nucleus from a human cell, such as a skin cell, is combined with an unfertilized human egg cell. Within a few days, pluripotent stem cells are created. These cells could then be used to generate healthy new tissue, such as skin, without the risk of the immune-rejection problems common to donated tissue and organ transplants.
The potential that stem cell research offers to help burn victims is just one reason why many California medical experts and organizations, including over 20 Nobel prize winning scientists, the California Medical Association, and American Nurses Association of California have endorsed the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.
Partial List of Sources:Sandia National Laboratories
American Burn Association
"Skin Regeneration Not Isolated To Epidermal Stem Cells." ScienceDaily.com
"UCSF Researchers On Road To Isolating Skin Stem Cells." - http://pub.ucsf.edu/newsservices/releases/200309194/
"Isolating skin stem cells." Medical News Today - http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=4334
The Dermatology Times
The Journal of Clinical Investigation
"The Use of Skin Substitutes." Burnsurgery.com