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January 2009 Issue
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Steven Boyce, PhD, examines skin cells to be used indeveloping engineered skin grafts.
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Study to Improve Skin Substitutes for Burn Victims

By Amanda Harper
Published January 2009

UC researchers have received $1.3 million to further develop and commercialize engineered skin substitutes for burn injury repairs as part of the newly formed Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).

Steven Boyce, PhD, will use the funding to initiate pre-clinical studies focused on regulating pigmentation and growing blood vessels in engineered skin grafts. He says both are important challenges that researchers have yet to overcome to improve the functionality of skin grafts.

Skin provides a protective covering to the body that prevents infection and injury to internal organs. Individuals who suffer severe burns often have open wounds that need permanent closure to prevent lifethreatening infections.

Adding blood vessels to the engineered skin grafts, says Boyce, will allow researchers to speed the healing process and minimize scarring. Boyce will also work on refining skin graft coloration and conduct additional safety testing.

He will conduct the research at Shriners Hospitals for Children–Cincinnati.

“We can generate brown or black skin by adding melanocytes to the skin graft, but we cannot regulate it as closely as we’d like,” he says. “The goal is to tailor the process of adding melanocytes so we can more closely match the new skin to the person’s original skin color.”

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