By: CBS News
By: CBS News

French scientists find a way to produce skin for severely burned victims, a process which could not only improve burns victims lives, but even save them.

The skin, which would be available immediately, is produced from human embryonic stem cells in the "I-stem", an institute which helps develop new regeneration therapies using stem cells.

The embryonic stem cells have the capacity to develop into any human cell, lung, heart, bone and, in this case, skin.

A team from this institute has recently published a preclinical study of their findings, where they have managed to grow human skin on the back of a mouse:

"What we did is that we grafted those cells on the back of a mouse on which we had created a wound and we observed twelve weeks later that the epidermis which had mended itself at the place where we had grafted the cells. So we demonstrated that we were capable to generate functional human skin on the back of a mouse," said Xavier Nissan who participated in the study.

"At the exact spot where we had placed our cells, which had come from human embryonic stem cells we we saw a human epidermis, totally functional with all the different layers of skin cells with the top layer which is the one that protects our organism from outside attacks," he said.

Victims of large burns are in immediate need of skin grafts and are very vulnerable to infections and can lead to death. So far, doctors and scientists treat patients with large burns by extending already existing skin, but it's a process which takes three weeks within which a patient can have serious complications.

With this new technique, skin would be available immediately as a temporary solution with a very low risks of rejection.

Doctor Marc Peschanski says, "What our finding can provide is a way to cover the burns during those three weeks with skin epidermis that will be, I would say, all the time produced in that factory and sent to the physician at the moment they receive a large burns patient and they call the factory and then, immediately, they will get a square metre of epidermis which will be a temporary way to cover the burns,"

Doctor Marc Peschanski thinks stem cell therapy, in term, could change completely the way diseases are cured, and hopes that it will be possible to treat severely burned patients within the next two or three years.

"You can imagine that regenerative medicine is an expanding field and the way we can grow the cells and have them available will mean that we will think differently, that it will not be as it is now - something that is really sophisticated in the hands of a few surgeons and so on - it may become an actual therapeutic tool useable in any hospital in any country. So that's the kind of dream we have for the future" Peschanski said.

This graft technique could also stop patients with type 2 diabetes from having to be amputated because of skin infections, for example.

Before 2004, human stem cell research was forbidden in France.

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