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Scientists develop artificial skin that may help treat burn victims

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Staff Writer

Researchers said Thursday they have developed an easy-to-use artificial skin that acts like a bandage and could be used as a temporary treatment for patients with severe burns until their undamaged skin can be harvested for grafting.

The new technology — which some say could revolutionize the treatment of burns — uses a collagen membrane scaffold to help heal wounds faster, researchers from Saga University and the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences told The Japan Times. Their findings were published in the June 4 edition of online medical journal Wound Repair and Regeneration.

“In tests conducted on mice we managed to speed up the healing,” said one of the team members who is affiliated with Saga University.

The artificial skin can be stored at room temperature for a long period of time, which means hospitals lacking facilities to treat patients with severe burns can hold stocks to apply as first aid.

The researchers developed a membrane called atelocollagen using collagen from pigs.

Atelocollagen is thin but resistant to tearing. Other first aid kits for treating burns using collagen exist, but they are often thicker and harder to handle.

Since atelocollagen is less likely to trigger an allergy than other collagens, it also reduces the risk of side effects, the Saga University researcher said. But he said it is not a long-term solution.

“The new type of artificial skin will not replace procedures such as skin grafting or harvesting,” but is a temporary measure to protect the wound from fluid loss and infection, he said.

The researchers said the artificial skin can be produced quickly and at low cost.

“The only thing that may push up the cost is collagen,” said co-developer Toshiaki Takezawa of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences.

Takezawa said the current manufacturing time is about a month, but that could speed up if various processes are brought together on one site. Currently, the material is shipped off-site to be sterilized once it is grown, he said.

Fellow project member Norimasa Kaba of Yutoku Pharmaceutical Ind. Co. said they plan to introduce artificial skin products by 2022.

“Currently we are working on a line of products for treatment conducted at hospitals and other medical facilities,” he said. “We can’t rule out that in the future (artificial skin) over-the-counter products will be available.”