The Independent of London and the Toronto Star both tell us about a new "skin gun" developed by Joerg Gerlach of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The gun sprays a solution of cells and water onto damaged skin. While the device is still in its early prototype stages Gerlach told the Star he has successfully treated about a dozen patients in Germany and the U.S. He hopes to have his final prototype ready in a few months so it can be tested under clinical trials.
"Skin cell spraying is not new, it was invented around 20 years ago in Argentina; and it is (for example) also performed in Australia," Gerlach told the Star. However, he said he's developing an electronically, processor-controlled pneumatic device that does not injure the cells during spraying.
If a patient arrives at a hospital missing a sizable portion of skin, surgeons take a sample from a healthy piece of skin and isolate cells, including stem cells, using a method Gerlach and his colleagues developed. Then the skin gun comes into play. A surgeon loads the stem cells into a sterile syringe, loads the syringe into the nozzle like a cartridge and sprays the cells directly onto the wound.
"What we're doing is taking the cells, isolating them, and, in the same procedure on the same day, we're putting the cells onto the wound," Gerlach said in a news release. "The progenitor cells can act immediately. 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."