Formerly, burn victims have had to wait weeks for skin to heal through methods such as skin grafting. And while scientists have been able to grow new skin for decades, that process takes weeks, and the result is too fragile to be practical. An unlikely new method promises to expedite the regeneration of healthy skin: Jörg C. Gerlach of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine has developed the Skin Cell Gun, which sprays a patient’s healthy stem cells onto a wound to regrow skin.
Though it’s still in the experimental phase, the gun has been used to effectively treat more than a dozen burn victims; one patient’s burns were completely healed just four days after they were sprayed with the gun. Because it offers the most time-efficient burn treatment, the skin gun lessens the chance of burn victims developing serious—and even fatal—infections.
Gerlach’s stem cell gun, along with other research conducted at a variety of U.S. universities, is part of the recently established Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), which received $85 million in government funding to research and implement techniques for treating wounds and burns on the battlefield and beyond. There is no firm timeline for bringing this technology to the public, but we continue to dream.