Doctors at the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas take care of soldiers (and sometimes civilians) who have been severely wounded or burned. I did 3 or 4 rotations at the old BAMC during medical school and residency and I was always impressed with the enthusiasm and care for the patients that all the staff and doctors displayed. The Burn Center at that hospital has always been on the cutting edge. And, now the BAMC docs are leading, again.
We’ve used special powders and cloths or tissues to speed wound healing or to give wounds more strength while the tissues grow back. There’s a wound treatment that seems to encourage the growth of healthy tissue rather than scar tissue.
First, a little about the healing process. Think of the repairing cells as a crew that works best under water. The body first covers the wound to keep out infection and to provide a scaffold for the new tissues to grow on. The immediate repair is replaced over a couple months’ time after the first healing. The workers that build the scaffold that the new skin will grow on need to swim into place. The new skin cells themselves – actually the stem cells that divide and develop into the new skins – must swim in. That’s probably one reason that wounds which are dressed with wet coverings or an ointment that holds in the body’s tissues heal so much faster.
The powder or tissue, ACell Powder Wound Dressing, is approved for use in wounds as a scaffold or matrix for the new skin to grow on. It appears that in some cases, the wounds grow back better, with more normal tissue and less scarring than in wounds without the powder.
The plan is to try the substance on men who have had their fingers amputated, leaving no tissue appendages that allow us all to grasp a pencil or a fork, to close buttons or a zipper. The hope is that even the smallest improvement will allow grasping.