A potential breakthrough in treatment for venous leg ulcers has given us a promising look into the future. The new treatment is called spray-on-skin, and a recent study in The Lancet finds that it accelerates healing time as well as greatly reducing the size of the ulcer.
Venous leg ulcers develop as a result of chronic elevated pressure in leg veins, which gradually damages the skin to the extent that it breaks down. Every year in the U.S. alone, nearly 600,000 people with the condition seek treatment, which typically consists of compression bandages, wound dressings, and infection control. However, these methods effectively heal only 30 to 70 percent of ulcers, and none are known to accelerate the healing process. While skin grafts are also used, these take time to prepare and can expose the patient to further discomfort or infection.
Spray-on-skin treatment, however, has the potential to significantly improve recovery time for this painful condition, which often afflicts people who are obese, immobile, or who suffer from varicose veins. The therapy consists of using neonatal skin cells, which can be purchased, and mixing them with serum clotting factors.
For their study, researchers from Healthpoint Biotherapeutics in Texas tested the spray-on-skin treatment in a trial of 228 patients suffering from venous leg ulcers. Different dosages of the treatment were tested by spraying the wound every seven or 14 days. All of the patients were also treated with compression bandages throughout the study.
The results showed that, compared to the control group, those who received the most effective skin-cell dosage were more than 50 percent more likely to see wound closure at 12 weeks. Overall, the spray-on-skin treatment healed a higher proportion of wounds and, compared to the control group, it sped up wound closure by an average of 3 weeks.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross is optimistic about these results. Any improvement in therapy for chronic venous ulcers would be a tremendous benefit to health, he says. With further research, this might even be a viable treatment option for other types of ulcers. Obviously, further, larger-scale studies are needed, for both venous ulcers and diabetic ulcers an even tougher problem.