After burns, healthy skin?
Using mice as subjects, Johns Hopkins scientists have found a way to regrow severely burned skin without the scars and damaged tissue that often serve as painful reminders of injury. A research team led by Sharon Gerecht, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering, devised a polymer-based gel that, when used with a regular wound dressing, can regenerate skin damaged by third-degree burns more rapidly than conventional treatments and without scarring. "Third-degree burns destroy the dermis, epidermis, and underlying layers of fat," Gerecht explains. "The skin doesn't fully recover. Instead, it becomes scar tissue, which doesn't function as normal tissue does. Due to a lack of blood vessels, oxygen is not delivered to the injured tissue, resulting in the formation of scarred tissue." Gerecht's invention coaxes more blood vessels to grow, along with layers of hair follicles and skin. In the next few years, Gerecht and others will follow up with research on pigs, and then people, to see if the gel might prove useful in treating burn victims. "There's a possibility that it could help diabetics suffering from foot ulcers," she adds. Learn more »