Researchers at the Salk Institute have developed a method to reprogram stem cells in skin ulcers and sores to differentiate into epithelial (skin) cells. The treatment advance has the potential to revolutionize treatment options for patients suffering from chronic skin conditions such as epidermolysis bullosa, ulcers and sores due to diabetes, bedsores and severe burns. Typically, there is an abundance of stem cells at the site of wounds such as ulcers. However, the stem cells prioritize dealing with inflammation and infection over the regeneration of skin tissue. The researchers sought to reprogram wound-resident mesenchymal stem cells in vivo [inside the body] by applying transduction factors, which directed the stem cells to generate skin tissue. Hence, the treatment is designed to generate new skin at the site of the wound as opposed to the current approach of utilizing a skin graft.
Sanford Health is heading into the second phase of clinical trials involving autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells to treat non-healing wounds and ulcers on the body. The trial will be recruiting patients 18 and older to continue testing the efficacy of stem cells in treating wounds that would not heal due to a person’s preexisting conditions. People with weakened immune systems could also benefit from this treatment, given that it would prevent the enormous risk of infection that non-healing wounds pose. Additionally, the treatment could even be applied to heal wounds from surgeries, expediting recovery time dramatically.