For the past 18 months, researchers at the French firm Urgo have been working to achieve this Holy Grail of wound treatment, which would save severe burn victims from the painful and repeated skin grafts they currently suffer.
The 100 million euro ($106 billion) “Genesis” project hopes to have a product ready by 2030.
Guirec Le Lous, president of Urgo’s medical arm, told AFP it was a “crazy” project.
“Are we able to design artificial skin in a laboratory? No one in the world has been successful,” he said.
Inside Urgo’s laboratory in Chenove, near the city of Dijon in eastern France, living cells are being cooled before they can be grown.
“You have to be able to recreate all the functions of the skin,” including protection from external threats and temperature regulation, Le Lous said.
It also needs to be relatively easy to make, because artificial skin needs to be “available to everyone and at the right price,” he said, without disclosing the exact technology or type of cells Urgo uses.
Urgo, a family business since 1880, has long made dressings for chronic wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers and venous leg ulcers.
“Since the 2000s, we’ve been working on materials that correct healing problems: dressings have become smart, interactive with wounds, allowing them to work better,” said Urgo’s research director , Laurent Apert.
He called the change “a revolution.”
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Urgo is far from alone in pushing the limits of what dressings can do.
Researchers at the University of South Australia have developed a new type of dressing that knows when to release silver nanoparticles, which can break down antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“Our treatment is unique in that it takes advantage of the antibacterial properties of silver, but avoids overexposure, as it is only activated when there is an infection,” lead researcher Zlatko Kopecki said in a statement.
This makes the dressing “a much safer and more effective treatment for children,” he added.
Children suffer almost half of all burn injuries worldwide, most of them between the ages of one and five, according to research using the World Health Organization’s Global Burn Registry.
‘Day and Night’
Another new technique eliminates the idea of dressing up altogether.
For a product by French startup VistaCare Medical, patients place their affected leg on a large device that never touches their wound.
Instead, the chamber controls humidity, temperature, and other aspects important to healing.
“There are no more dresses. The idea is to put the wound in an enclosure, in sterile air, VistaCare Medical President Francois Dufay said.
“With this system, we provide the wound with what it needs, at the right time.”
VistaCare Medical’s device is currently used in about 20 French hospitals, but next year the company plans to apply for approval in the United States for a product to be used at home.
New developments have shaken up the world of wound healing, a long-neglected area of medical research.
Isabelle Fromantin, who heads the wound and healing research unit at the Institut Curie in Paris, said “compared to 20 years ago, it’s night and day in terms of wound care.” .
Together with his team, Fromantin has developed dressings that reduce the odors of necrotic wounds seen in some cancers.
However, he said that not everything can be achieved with new technologies: healing is a process that varies from person to person, depending on their age and health.
“Believing that a dressing will cure you on its own is utopian,” he said.
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