Truly a Miracle!

– By Hussain Asif,  NUST Science Blog 

Of all the vital organs of our body, probably the one most misunderstood is our skin. Think for yourself, when was the last time that you took care of your skin for reasons other than satisfying your aesthetic senses. Well, in certain circumstances, other more critical role of our skin is highlighted such as acting as a barrier!

Take the instance of getting burnt: a little known but true fact is that when a patient gets a burn wound, they don’t die of the wound or pain – rather it’s the infection that kills the patient. The reason is that our skin is a natural barrier which keeps the bad stuff out. Also, our skin is alive with circulation, so there is continuous surveillance of our borders.

The Weapon of Cure. (From National Geographic)

So what happens if your skin gets burned? When your borders are open? It’s pretty simple to guess: Enemy starts coming in wave after wave. Now our body has an intrinsic defense mechanism called the immune system, but like every other system, it can only fight up to a certain limit. In fact, a burn wound demonstrates perfectly how vital our skin is! Let me tell you how.

The patients who get burned are immediately operated upon and the burnt tissue is removed. It is then washed with sterile solutions and wrapped in sterile material before the whole patient is transferred to an isolated room where you can only visit them after undergoing certain cleaning processes. And if this isn’t enough, the patient is given high doses of potent antibiotics to inhibit bacterial growth BUT still a large number of patients who sustain burns have a very low chance of survival, especially with a second degree or third degree burn.

These degrees are actually a measure of intensity of the burn. In first degree, only upper layer of skin is damaged and lower layer is relatively intact. Most everyday life burns are first degree. In a second degree burn, your skin is thoroughly damaged to the root but underlying tissues, i.e. muscles, are intact. Unlike first degree burns in which lower layer is safe, this type is slow to heal since you don’t have healing from underneath, but rather from the surrounding intact skin. Third degree burn is almost always incurable because it involves damage to the skin and underlying tissues, and survival rate is very low in this case.

So what’s this miracle the title hints about? It takes advantage of advancements in technology and their usage in a combination. The main technology is stem cell technology.

From Flickr: Coleman and Caroline

Stem cells are kind of parent cells which have the ability to divide almost indefinitely. What happens normally is that stem cells divide at a low rate and keep on replacing our skin from underneath while our skin keeps on shedding at a constant rate from above, maintaining a balance. When our skin is damaged, these stem cells get buried under the rubble of dead skin cells and, therefore, they can’t rebuild our skin immediately; rather they have to wait while our body clears the rubble and makes way for them.

What this particular technology does is that it extracts stem cells from underneath and puts them in a solution of nutrients. In normal conditions, these cells have contact with skin cells which makes them grow at a low rate but once in solution, these cells no longer sense the presence of skin cells and are stimulated to divide at an explosive rate. Once they are pushed into this growth phase, they are taken from solution, put in a spray gun and sprayed onto the damaged skin surface where they start building new skin.

So far so good, but here is the best bit: normal body regeneration of second degree burn takes 3-4 weeks at minimum and then there are the marks that are left. But if you were to “spray on the skin”, it would take a total of 1.5 hours to extract, and then spray these stem cells on the damaged skin and after 4-5 days there is complete REGENERATION! And it’s so complete that you can barely tell if there ever was a burn on that place!

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE! Well, if seeing is believing, then here it is! (Right here)


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