Biological bandages are being successfully used to treat patients with severe burns

Doctors have been impressed with the rapid recovery rates instigated by the ‘tailor-made ’ discs, which have been devised by a research team at the Sheffield company, CellTran, with financial support from the Wellcome Trust biomedical research charity and the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund. They will be officially launched at the British Burn Association’s annual meeting in Manchester tomorrow (28th).

In one case, a nine-year-old boy, who had been badly burned on his back and legs during a bonfire accident, showed signs of healing just three days after CellTran’s ‘Myskin’ treatment began.

Myskin has also proved to be extremely effective in improving long term ulcerated wounds, even helping one man who has undergone various types of treatment for 60 years, since becoming a POW in the Second World War.

Burns and Plastics surgeon, David Ralston, who works at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, said : “ The bandages have produced some excellent results. We have only used them in a few cases so far but they seem to work very well indeed.

“The patients we treated had been badly burned but after use of Myskin- in addition to conventional skin grafting - they all made good recoveries. They also reported feeling relief from pain pretty quickly, which is obviously a crucial factor in injuries as severe as these.”

Myskin “living bandages”, which were developed following ten years’ research, were also used to treat a 28-year-old man who had suffered severe burns to his body and right leg. A good level of healing was recorded after ten days. Another patient was an 80-year-old man who had been badly burned on his face, body and legs. After just two applications he told doctors the pain level had fallen.

Professor Sheila MacNeil, who with colleague, Professor Robert Short, developed the bandages while researching at Sheffield University, said : “The beauty of the Myskin design is its simplicity. The bandages can be ready for use on wounds in five to seven days and they are easy to apply.

“Other methods of growing the patients’ own cells either take longer or they require careful and expert handling by the surgeons. We designed this method by working closely with burns surgeons to make cell transfer from the laboratory to the patient as simple and robust as possible.”

CellTran’s technique, which relies on technology similar to that used to line the inside of drinks cartons, involves producing a cell-friendly surface based on a thin coating of acrylic acid deposited onto a Medical Grade polymer backing dressing. A sample of the patient’s skin, usually from the thigh, is taken under local anaesthetic and the cells are then expanded many hundred- fold in the laboratory before being placed on the bandage.

A reserve supply of cells is also kept frozen in liquid nitrogen to allow further treatment. The cell-coated bandage, which is prepared at 37 degrees C – but is readily transported and handled at room temperature - can then be easily customised to fit the damaged region.

Once applied, the discs release the cells and kick-start new layers of skin to grow in the damaged regions.

The new technique could prove invaluable as every year in the UK 3,000,000 people suffer chronic wounds. These include around 1,000 severe burns injuries and some 5,000 foot or toe amputations performed on diabetics suffering persistent ulcers. The NHS spends £360m p.a. on diabetic ulcer care.

Dr. Ted Bianco, Head of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust, which has invested £600,000 in CellTran, said: “ This is a venture that will bring much-needed comfort to many people who have had to endure horrendous injuries, often without much hope of finding relief.”

Vernon Carus, a company which meets a broad spectrum of clinical needs and is a top provider 50 provider to the NHS, has been given exclusive access to the Myskin technology in the UK and will include the product in its ‘Autologi’ wound service.

Commenting on the development, Bruce Ash, Managing Director of Vernon-Carus said: “Establishing Autologi confirms our commitment to play a vital role in wound management throughout the United Kingdom. With the addition of Myskin we now have a broad spectrum of wound care products giving patients and clinicians the opportunity to benefit from advancing technology in a simple, clinically user-friendly format”

Celltran was initially funded by the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund, a £9million fund which is owned by the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York and invests in commercialisation opportunities from those Universities.

Gerry White of Aberdeen Murray Johnstone, the manager of the Fund, said: “We have been very pleased with the progress of Celltran and the team, since our original investment three years ago, and look forward to the successful commercialisation of the product range”

Mal Jarmolowicz, Chief Executive Officer of CellTran added: “Following ten years’ extensive research within the University of Sheffield, we have been able to demonstrate positive clinical outcomes, indicating that Myskin will provide significant benefits to many of the three million patients in the UK with chronic wounds.”

Initially Myskin will be available for burns patients through Vernon Carus’ Autologi division. Later this year Myskin will be available for the many patients whose lives are adversely affected by their foot and leg ulcers throughout the UK. CellTran’s technology has attracted significant interest from the commercial sector in Europe, N.America and Japan.

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