A new spray technique provides Wexner Medical Center patients with a second chance at skin.

Burn victims now have the opportunity to regrow skin through a spray-on skin cell application, and the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State has become one of three hospitals in Ohio to treat burn wounds with the cell-regenerating spray.

The Recell Autologous Cell Harvesting Device uses a sample of the patient’s skin — known as a skin graft — to begin the process. The skin is placed in the device, where the new cells are generated, and then sprayed on the wound to help the cells grow and heal, Amalia Cochran, a trauma surgeon at the medical center who specializes in burns and critical care, said.  

The Food and Drug Administration approved Recell in September 2018, making it the first approved spray-on skin device in the United States. 

Cochran said Recell is a one-time use technique in the operating room where a 2-by-2-inch piece of skin is taken and put through the Recell process, which generates the spray. The sample is used to cover an area of about 20 3 1/2-by-5-inch index cards.

The technique will help generate skin for larger wounds that would normally have problems healing without Recell, Cochran said.

Recell causes less scarring and heals skin faster compared to other treatments available, Cochran said. Full healing time can take up to a couple of weeks, but Cochran said the quickest she has seen was one week. 

“The wounds heal about twice as fast when the Recell spray skin device was applied,” Ian Valerio, a plastic surgeon at the medical center, said. 

Cochran compares waiting to see the results to wondering what is inside your Christmas presents. 

“After the process is done, we wrap it up in dressing and don’t peek for about six days, which can be really hard for the patients,” Cochran said. 

Recell is intended for burn wounds that are treated immediately after the injury, not past wounds.

“This is definitely for acute burn injuries, meaning a new burn — not for a burn someone got 10 or 15 years ago,” Cochran said. “Generally, you will see it used on a larger burn in place of doing skin grafting, as well as it being used for deep partial-thickness burns.”

After learning about Recell, patients have sought the treatment for other conditions, Valerio said. 

“I have already started using it for traumatic wounds in addition to burn wounds,” Valerio said. “There’s some other theoretical advantages that will be interesting to see in long-term studies if the spray skin technique can allow for pigmentation of skin to be returned, although that is future areas of study that has yet to be investigated.”