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Submitted by lekerr on Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:05am

The Skin Regeneration Team is an Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions sponsored group of multi-disciplinary, dedicated individuals located at the University of Calgary. This team is focused on developing stem cell-based strategies to regenerate the skin and restore skin function and appearance following severe burns and other traumatic injuries to the skin.  

Each year, more than 6 million people suffer burn injuries, resulting in permanent disfigurement, disability and psychological trauma. The current treatment for deep skin burns is a split thickness skin graft surgery. That is, the top layers of skin from an unaffected part of the body are harvested and then transplanted over top of the wound.

Although this is sufficient to close a wound, it does not look or function like normal skin because it lacks the deep layers of skin called the dermis. The dermis is critical for normal skin function. As a result, grafted skin lacks the proper complement of nerves, hair follicles and glands. Unfortunately, as a consequence, patients suffer chronic pain and itch, immobility and psychosocial issues due to the grafts’ unacceptable appearance.

In order to improve the function of split thickness skin grafts, we propose to use the patient’s own stem cells to regenerate the dermis beneath the graft. We previously identified a skin stem cell in both rodents and humans that maintains normal healthy skin and is able to generate new cells to repair the deep layers of skin after injury.