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living bandage

noun [countable]

a bandage made from skin cells grown from a sample of the patient's skin

'A former prisoner of war, now in his 80s, who developed ulcers on his legs while interned in a Japanese camp, was also successfully treated with the "living bandage" after failing to respond to various treatments over the past 60 years.'

The Scotsman 27th April 2004

We've all seen the science fiction movies where ailing superheroes undergo a fantastic regeneration, their wounds miraculously disappearing without trace. Although medical advances can't quite yet make us as indestructible as the characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, scientists have recently perfected a revolutionary treatment which dispenses with conventional bandages and heals wounds via the regeneration of a patient's own skin cells. This technique is known as a living bandage.

by using the patient's own skin, rejection issues are eliminated, allowing natural healing to take place rapidly

In order to develop a living bandage, skin cells are scraped from a patient, often from the thigh area, and cultured in a laboratory on specially-designed plastic discs. The skin cells multiply and form a living bandage of a patient's own skin, which is applied as a patch at the site of the wound, triggering new layers of skin growth. By using the patient's own skin, rejection issues are eliminated, allowing natural healing to take place rapidly.

Every year in the UK, around three million people suffer serious wounds, among them a high proportion of severe burn injuries. The living bandage could revolutionize the treatment of burns, as illustrated by a trial on a nine-year-old boy who, suffering from burns on his back and legs, showed evidence of healing within just three days of undergoing the treatment. Living bandages could also have a major application in the treatment of long-term skin damage caused by pressure sores and ulcers, circulation problems, or conditions such as diabetes.

Background – living bandage

The living bandage, known commercially as the Myskin™ bandage, has taken 10 years to develop, and is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Sheffield University and a spin-off biotechnology company called CellTran. Also described as a biological bandage, the technique was first reported in a New Scientist column in 2002.

The key to success was to give the specially-designed plastic discs a coating which would allow skin cells to grow, but from which the cells could later be released to apply to the wound. The successful coating was developed by adapting the same technique as that used to coat the inside of drinks cartons!

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 11th October 2004.

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a general election … that is called earlier than expected

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