The Skin Gun—New Line of Defense for Severe Burns

Heather Atkinson

The skin gun may be one of the new inventions to truly revolutionize medicine and has even been referred to as The Skin Gun Hoax. The great scientific minds at work in the ever advancing field of medicine may still encounter roadblocks and brick walls when it comes to cures for illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and even the common cold, but that is not indicative of the progress made in all corners of the medical realm.

Breakthroughs are frequently underway and precious lives are being saved on a daily basis. This is due to exciting technological advances that occur as the secrets held within the human body are continually being discovered and our understanding of them deepens.

Nvate Skin gun, bioreactor, skin cells, growing skin by Jorg Gerlach

This is the “skin gun,” which is a device that was developed by Dr. Jorg Gerlach and his team at the University of Pittsburgh. The device aids burn victims in new skin growth.

When Was the Skin Gun Developed?

The skin gun is a fairly recent medical invention, though still in experimental phases, has risen to the challenge of effectively and efficiently re-growing skin that has been damaged in incidents that have resulted in moderate to severe burn injuries.

Dr. Jorg Gerlach, professor in the department of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Health, has developed the “skin burn disease therapy,” which includes the use of a “skin gun.”

Precursor to The Skin Gun:

What is Skin Burn Disease Therapy?

A three-part system designed by Gerlach and his team, the therapy applies healthy skin cells from an undamaged section of the patient’s body directly onto the open wound, allowing said skin cells to regenerate on-site, thus obliterating the need for painful or ineffective skin grafts, according to the article, “Burn Therapy: A Regenerative Medicine Approach.”

Not only is this skin regenerating method noticeably less painful and more dependable, but the recovery time required to re-grow healthy, functioning skin is remarkably less as well. In mere days, Gerlach’s skin gun has accomplished what other skin growth methods achieve in weeks or even months.

Why Does the Skin Gun Technique Work so Well?

A Combination of Innovations

In the “Burn Therapy” article, Gerlach explains his three-part system for re-growing skin. The first step involves taking undamaged skin cells from the patient and isolating them in a stable environment; a 3-D device Gerlach calls a bioreactor. According to the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Gerlach’s bioreactors “provide the environment needed for the inoculated cells to spontaneously re-assemble to tissue-like structures and also support the re-formation of the vascular channels to supply the cells.”

How The Skin Gun Works

Preparing The Skin Gun

Once the cells have been allowed to multiply sufficiently, they are loaded into a cartridge-like syringe which is then attached to a device that resembles a spray paint gun, according to the McGowan Institute. These cells, combined with a water-based solution, are applied evenly using the gun directly onto the burned area of the patient. The third part of this procedure requires dressing the wound so that the skin cells may take effect and heal the damaged skin. However, the dressing they use is anything but traditional.

Application Of The Skin Gun

Entangled in the bandaging are tubes that function as another bioreactor, delivering nutrients, electrolytes, and antibiotics into the area being treated, keeping it clean and supporting the skin cells until they are able to grow and form healthy, new skin. And according to Gerlach, the entire process has produced completely healed skin in an impressive period of a mere few days.

Considering the fact that the processes of skin grafting and growing skin in a lab can take weeks to complete and may not be successful due to increased possibilities of infection, the skin gun could drastically improve the survival rate among severe burn victims, returning to them their body’s first line of defense against outside elements.

The Future Of The Skin Gun Technology

Not only are the bioreactor and skin gun systems being used to grow skin, but scientists are taking this technology even further to research the growing of other organs and body parts, such as ears, limbs, and even beating hearts. National Geographic posted a video, “How to Build a Beating Heart,” outlining the progress of several different studies. The results look promising, and the scientists of regenerative medicine are determined to make their efforts a reality with the skin gun.

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