Artificial skin offers hope to burn victims
August 28, 1997
Web posted at: 4:34 a.m. EDT (0834 GMT)
From Correspondent Joan MacFarlane
DETROIT (CNN) -- Just a few months ago, 10-year-old Louis was in critical condition with burns on more than 40 percent of his body. Once nearly immobile, a new technology has allowed Louis to once again be able to play and run.
Louis was playing with lighter fluid near a barbecue when he caught on fire. Doctors were able to cover Louis' burned skin with a new artificial skin called Dermagraph-TC.
Before Dermagraph-TC, the typical cover for burn wounds was cadaver skin, known as allografts. The skin grafts, however, didn't always have the desired effects. They sometimes introduced disease to the burn victim or are rejected by the body, prompting further painful surgery.
"(We needed a way to bridge the gap for patients) with massive burn injuries in which we have insufficient amounts of their own skin to provide skin graphs," explains Dr. Marc Cullen of the Children's Hospital of Michigan. "We need something that will serve as an active skin while we are waiting for their own skin to become available."
Dermagraph is the only artificial skin product on the market made from human tissue. Made from human foreskin, Dermagraph-TC can make enough skin to cover six to eight football fields from one male sample.
The artificial skin acts like real skin, but with no side effects. The negative characteristics of cadaver skin do not come into play.
"It allows them emotional relief from having to have repeat surgery and some pain relief," Cullen explains. "(It also allows) an improvement in their condition and it's very visible in the patient as their heart rate returns to normal and their desire to participate in rehabilitation is enhanced.
The drawback to Dermagraph-TC is its cost. The skin grafts costs about $3,600 a square foot compared to $600 to $800 for cadaver skin. But the extra expense of the Dermagraph can sometimes, as with Louis, be compensated for by the lower expense of shorter hospital stays, made possible by the artificial skin's better performance.