Burn expert: Experimental new skin-spray treatment ‘a game-changer’ in healing burns

(Eric Jakows/DD)
Burn care researcher Dr. Kevin Foster spoke at the University of Arizona Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix about an experimental treatment for burn victims. (Eric Jakows/DD)

An experimental skin-spray treatment designed to help burn victims heal could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration within the next two years, leading burn care researcher Dr. Kevin Foster said Wednesday night.

“I think that this is actually a game-changer,” he told an audience gathered at the University of Arizona Biomedical Campus. “I will probably use this in 80 percent of the surgeries I do.”

Foster is internationally recognized for his contributions in the field of burn care. He is the medical director at the Arizona Burn Center, the director of surgical research and the program director of general surgery residency training at Maricopa Integrated Health System.

With classic burn grafting, a similarly sized portion of donor skin is needed to help heal a burn area. But with ReCell, only a portion of donor skin is needed to heal the burn area.

“An Australian woman, Fiona Wood, came up with the idea of harvesting a very small piece of skin, and using an enzyme to separate the epidermis cells from each other, filtering them and re-suspending them in a spray that actually works to heal burns,” Foster said.

When the experimental spray was brought to the United States for testing, Foster wanted to compare it with classic mesh grafting. He conducted tests where half a burn would be treated with 2:1 mesh grafting, and the other half with ReCell. He discovered something in his experiments.

“The spot that always looks the best is the spot in the center where there’s 2:1 mesh graft and a little bit of accidental over-spray of ReCell,” he said.

Rather than solely using ReCell to help heal small burn sites, Foster said with the combination of ReCell and classic mesh grafting, doctors could treat large burns.

Though Foster considers himself “one small part of a very large team,” his individual contribution at the Arizona Burn Center has been substantial in the efforts to gain the FDA’s approval of ReCell in the United States.

Foster said the cost of the trial will probably be $25-30 million. So far, 10 individuals have participated in the trial period of ReCell, which will take another six months to a year. The FDA approval could take up to one additional year.

Foster’s presentation was part of the University of Arizona College of Medicine Mini-Medical School 3.0, which is held the first Wednesday of every month. The speaker series features renowned experts from many different health fields. Each event is free and open to the public.

Maryam Waris, a fourth year pre-med student at Arizona State University, attended Wednesday’s presentation because she was interested in the University of Arizona as a potential medical school.

“I was very engaged. I’m not sure if it was because Dr. Foster was a good lecturer or if it was just an interesting topic,” Waris said. “The lecture was really welcoming to not only med students but non-med students as well.”

Scott Litewski and his wife had attended other Mini Med School lectures outside Arizona and found Foster’s lecture after recently moving to the area.

“I work in the construction trade, and all of the risks that the lecturer discussed are all apparent in what I do. So learning about all of those risks is a really good way to avoid them,” Litewski said.

Contact the reporter at melissa.szenda@asu.edu.

Correction: September 3, 2015
The original version of this story stated the event occurred on Thursday night. The Mini Med School event occurred on Wednesday night.