Alright you ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans, rejoice in this. Jackson Avery may or may not have unintentionally predicted the future of surgical medicine.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently approved a new product, called ReCell, designed to treat severe burns to the body all with a single spray.
Confused? Let’s start from the beginning.
Today, doctors typically treat a severe burn to the body through a skin graft. Skin grafting is a surgical technique that involves transplantation of the skin.
The skin can be retrieved either by cutting away one’s own healthy skin to cover the burns or using skin from a donor.
Through skin grafting, we oftentimes run the risk of our bodies rejecting the new skin. If we use our own skin, that would simply result in more skin that needs time to heal. With this new product, we would no longer have to worry about this.
So, how does it exactly work?
The makers of ReCell, AVITA Medical, describe the process as fairly simple. “ReCell uses a unique combination of enzymes to break down the layers of skin from a piece of tissue, then mix them into a liquid that can be applied to the skin using a low-tech spray syringe,” they said.
The solution also contains keratinocytes, fibroblasts and melanocytes, which are all types of cells that are involved in wound healing. Once the burns are coated with the solution, cell replication begins and a new layer of skin forms.
The product has been shown to start treating burns in as little as 30 minutes. Because the patient’s own skin is used for this procedure, the risk of rejection is removed by the body and it speeds up patient recovery time.
According to an NBC News article, Dylan Melancon, a 26-year old nursing student, was one of the few patients that tried the experimental ReCell procedure after suffering from serious burns to 34 percent of his body after a motorcycle accident.
Generally, if Melancon were to undergo a skin graft transplantation, he would have spent at least two months in the hospital recovering and taking strong narcotics (which are highly addictive painkillers) for the pain.
With ReCell, Melancon’s total recovery time was just three and a half weeks, with accounts of extremely minimal pain.
Why is this such a breakthrough in medicine?
Well, for one, not only does it provide obvious advantages to limit patient pain and speed up recovery time, but utilizing the product would allow doctors to treat more patients in emergency rooms after mass casualties.
“These products are mostly going to be used by hospitals and by physicians to treat patients who are injured in a house fire, or a gas explosion, or a car accident,” says Chris Houchens of the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, which sponsored the development of the product.
The product is recommended for use on patients 18 years or older and has not been tested with younger subjects.
It has yet to be officially released on the market, but representatives from AVITA Medical anticipate it to be sometime around the end of 2018.
Costs are believed to range from $5,000 to $10,000 per unit, with each unit enough to treat 10 percent of a patient’s body.