Key facts about ReCell
The skin is the body's largest organ, covering an area of about two square metres. A person's skin grows continually throughout their life, forming new cells from below the surface and shedding old ones. The average person grows an entire new skin in 30 days and sheds around 18kg of skin during their life.
Skin consists of two main layers, the protective and waterproof outer layer called the epidermis and the strong and elastic inner layer called the dermis, which contains blood vessels and nerve endings.
The two layers are joined by a thin layer called a basement membrane. Below the dermis lies a subcutaneous layer of protein, fibres and fat - this is not part of the skin but does contain some skin structures like glands and sensory receptors.
The vast majority of wounds can heal by themselves through the normal process of skin regeneration. However, additional help is needed in cases where the dermis is damaged, such as seen with significant burns, defective cosmetic surgery or chronic wounds - wounds which do not heal within three months.
How it works
Skin cells, specifically 'building block' cells called keratinocytes and those giving the skin its colour, the melanocytes, are harvested from a small area of a patient's skin and then put in suspension to create enough cells to cover the wound or burn. Those cells are then sprayed back on to the wound, where they multiply and create new skin tissue.
Because the new cells are autologous, grown from a patient's own cells, there is no risk of rejection and no risk of disease transmission. In addition, because they are in a spray form, applying the new cells takes just minutes.
What makes this technology better
We are the only company worldwide to commercialise this type of product. ReCell is in a class of its own and very different to more traditional methods for treating patients with burns or other dermatological needs. These more traditional methods include skin grafting - taking skin from one area of the body and transferring it to another part - and the use of cultured epithelial autograft (CEA) sheets, on which a patient's cells are grown before being replaced in sheet form. Our technology is better in a number of ways:
Faster and easier treatment
ReCell patients can receive their new skin cells within minutes. With our products, the patient's own body is, in effect, being used as its own incubator - the new cells grow where they are needed rather than growing in a lab then being transferred. Spraying replacement cells directly on to a wound takes a few minutes and does not require the patient to be placed under general anaesthetic for small defects. This contrasts with skin grafting or the use of CEA sheets, which require time consuming and precise placing of the sheet on the wound by suture or staple and do not always bond well.
Less time in hospital
Because our products require less time for cell expansion and multiplication, leading to faster and more effective healing, patients do not need to spend as long in hospital. As well as being better for the patient, who is able to return to their normal life more quickly, this is better for the hospital as it reduces the number of bed days it needs for individual patients, allowing them to treat more people.
Better appearance of healed skin
As the treatment time with our products is shorter, the appearance of the skin is better. The time taken for a wound to heal directly relates to the quality of the scarring. For example, a wound which takes more than 21 days to heal has a 78% or greater risk of serious scarring. A wound which heals in less than ten days has just a 4% risk of prolonged scarring. Other techniques may not allow for treatment with replacement cells within this time.
Faster and more effective treatment leads to reduced pain, reduced scarring and better outcomes for patients. This improves self-confidence, reduced depression and allows a patient to get on with their lives.
Better outcomes for victims of childhood burns
Using our products has a clear benefit for young burn victims as the technology allows the new skin to grow as if it had never been damaged. These contrast with skin grafts or untreated scarring, which often require repetitive surgery throughout childhood to stretch the skin.
The technology has been developed over the last decade driven by the vision of Prof Fiona Wood, and Ms Marie Stoner. This pioneering technology has meant more than 4,000 patients have experienced better, quicker and more effective healing - in some cases saving their lives.
Prof Fiona Wood and Ms Marie Stoner
Harrowing pictures of people severely injured in the Bali terrorist bombing reached a worldwide audience in 2002. The first reporters on the scene described the terrible carnage in front of them. Meanwhile back at the burns unit in the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia, the head of the burns unit, Prof Fiona Wood, and her team were calmly getting ready to receive some of the survivors with up to 92percent burns on their bodies.
Prof Wood and colleague Ms Stoner had already developed a spray-on autologous skin culture technique, which was used to treat the survivors. Altogether, 22 patients were treated within one week - much more quickly than if skin grafts or cultured skin sheets had been used.
The pair had developed the technology some ten years earlier and had routinely used it since 1994, but the effect it had on the survivors of the Bali bombing was so marked that it was brought to the global attention by the media.
Prof Wood's exceptional leadership and surgical skills highlighted the ground breaking research she and Ms Stoner had been undertaking.