Science Market Update

UNC Research Scientists Develop Spray-On Skin Cell Therapy

Posted by Jennifer Nieuwkerk on Thu, Sep 06, 2012

Research scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered a “spray-on skin” treatment that speeds up recovery in wounds that don’t heal well on their own. The findings, published in the Lancet, showed that ulcers treated with the spray healed better than ulcers treated in other ways. According to, between one and two million Americans have a vein disease where leg wounds have difficulty healing. People with such wounds are at risk for infections and even amputation.

These wounds, known as leg ulcers, are painful open wounds that can stay open for months without the right treatment. They are generally treated with compression bandages, which only work well for 70 percent of ulcers after six months of treatment. Another option for treatment is taking skin from another part of the body and grafting it over the wound.

The new spray-on skin developed by UNC research scientists offers another solution: The spray uses a coating of donated skin cells and blood-clotting proteins on the wound and has shown excellent results. Although the cost of the new method may be high, in the long run, people could save money because of the treatment’s efficiency, and they could heal much faster.

“The treatment we tested in this study has the potential to vastly improve recovery times and overall recovery from leg ulcers, without the need for a skin graft,” said study coauthor Dr. Herbert Slade. “This means not only that the patient doesn’t acquire a new wound where the graft is taken from, but also that the spray-on solution can be available as soon as required – skin grafts take a certain amount of time to prepare, which exposes the patient to further discomfort and risk of infection.”

According to redOrbit, the research scientists conducting the study were led by William Marston, MD. Marston is also a professor of surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and medical director of the Wound Healing Clinic. His team enrolled patients for the study at 28 medical centers in the United States and used two specific cell concentrations and two different dosing frequencies over 12 weeks.


William Marston

William Marston, MD

Image courtesy of University of North Carolina


In an interview with BBC News, Irene Anderson, a lecturer in leg ulcer theory at the University of Hertfordshire, said:

"A dressing or other application may have a positive effect on the wound for a period of time, but ultimately if the underlying condition is not managed the leg will break down again...We do know that leg ulcers are becoming increasingly complex and when using the range of treatments available there needs to be clear evidence that there will be a beneficial effect to ensure cost effectiveness and to make sure that patients are not given false expectations of a cure."

So while it’s important that patients temper their expectations, research scientists are certainly hoping that the development of spray-on skin has the potential to be an efficient, effective and cost-conscious treatment for wounds that are difficult to heal.

If you are a research scientist or lab supplier interested in network with others in your industry at the University of North Carolina, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to attend our annual Chapel Hill BioResearch Product Faire Front Line event, to be held next on May 8, 2013. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a science research marketing and event-planning company that runs trade shows at top research institutions across the country. If you are interested in attending a show closer to home, we encourage you to check out our calendar of events.


Tags: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Southeast, 2012, Cell Research, Front Line event, NC, research scientists, Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill, Southern Region

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