New Technology Can Help Wounded and Ill Veterans Regrow Skin

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Researcher Dr. Matthew Peterson and nurse Trina Dickert measure bedsores, or pressure ulcers, a common problem for veterans with spinal cord injury, as well as other patient populations. (Photo by Dan Henry via VA.org)
Researcher Dr. Matthew Peterson and nurse Trina Dickert measure bedsores, or pressure ulcers, a common problem for veterans with spinal cord injury, as well as other patient populations. (Photo by Dan Henry via VA.org)

Two skin regeneration products going to market this month may help wounded veterans heal faster and prevent limb-threatening diabetic ulcers.

MTF Biologics, a global nonprofit and the world's largest tissue bank, is unveiling both an injection that promotes fat cell growth under the skin and a epidermis-like bandage at a limb salvage conference in Phoenix this week. Both products are available at the Department of Veterans Affairs through Academy Medical, a procurement service.

The first product, called Leneva, lets doctors create skin cell growth below the surface with an injection. The other, SomaGen Mesh, is a breathable cover that promotes rapid skin regrowth to speed up healing for open wounds like diabetic ulcers.

Dr. Matthew Regulski, a podiatric surgery specialist who's used both products on patients, said 80% of chronic wounds occur from the knee down.

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Diabetics are at risk of developing chronic foot ulcers. These can result in amputation, and 40% of such patients die within five years from associated complications.

Veterans are more likely than civilians to become diabetic, recent research has shown. Data from the Centers for Disease Control published in 2017 showed 9.4% of the general population had diabetes. The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found nearly 25% of veterans had diabetes.

Regulski said most people don't know how debilitating diabetes can be: It affects the whole body physically by slowing down the immune system. There is also a mental effect because patients are told how to live their lives and what to eat, which can lead to depression.

As the seventh leading cause of death, diabetes has killed more people than all cancers combined, he said.

For this reason, Leneva has huge potential to heal and prevent diabetic ulcers by encouraging more blood flow under the surface of wounds by creating new fat cell growth, Regulski explained.

Meanwhile, he said what sets SomaGen apart from current products is its design, which lets it expand up to 150% to accommodate wounds of various sizes, making it useful for combat wounds and burn victims.

"With SomaGen, you get these large pieces," he said. "It's already penetrated. It has folds to allow fluid to move through from the wound."

It's also a cheaper alternative to typical skin regeneration, he added, which must be harvested and stored.

"The recurrence of chronic and complex wounds are painful and can be both life-threatening and costly to treat," said Kim Rounds, vice president of wound care at MTF Biologics.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at DMillsGregg.

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