Hospitals may start packing heat in the near future, but patients–especially burn victims–will be rejoicing. The “skin gun” fires stem cells instead of bullets, and it can heal second-degree burns faster than we’ve ever done it before.
Usually, skin grafting is an arduous process: It takes weeks to grow a fragile patch of skin over a wound. But with the skin gun, the grafting process takes 90 minutes and patients heal up within four days. And in the world of skin grafting, that speedy timeline is precious because it means that infections have less of a chance of setting in and killing patients.
The skin gun was created by University of Pittsburgh researcher Jörg C. Gerlach, and works by spraying stem cells drawn from healthy skin over burns. As CBC News reports:
“What we’re doing is taking the cells, isolating them and, in the same procedure on the same day, we’re putting the cells on to the wound,” Gerlach said…. “The most critical cells are present, and we are using those cells right away from the patient. We just need to take care that we are distributing the cells nicely over the wound.”
Other medical inventors are on the same track–another device tested on mice last year uses a gizmo inspired by an inkjet printer to “print” skin cells on wounds.
Although the skin gun is still being tested, doctors have already used it to successfully treat a dozen burn victims. And the great part is that they leave with a wonderful story to tell their friends: “So my doctor shot me with a gun, and now I’m all better!”
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