Healing wounds with stem cells

August 15, 2011 2:42:07 PM PDT
The skin is the largest organ in the body with amazing healing powers, but what if your wounds didn't heal?

That's the case for six-million Americans suffering from chronic wounds that can take months, even years, to heal. Millions have no other choice besides amputation.

Now, a new stem cell therapy is helping change that.

Spending time with her grandchildren hasn't been easy for Karen Marshall.

"I have had so many times that I've been down because of infection, and that takes a while to clear up and everything," Marshall said.

Doctors diagnosed Karen with crest syndrome 10 years ago -- an autoimmune disorder that makes it difficult for her to heal. A paper cut took her nine months to close up.

A deep leg wound took five years. After a MRSA infection exposed her tendons around her ankles, doctors made a recommendation.

"They say you can just continue doing what you're doing forever and ever or cut it off. I wouldn't accept it," she said.

Instead, she found Dr. Evangelos Badiavas with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He enrolled her in a study that takes stem cells from a patient's own body and uses them to treat their stubborn wounds.

"We have had patients who have not healed for more than 10 years and achieved full healing," Dr. Badiavas said.

The cells are applied directly to the skin and injected locally.

"The very bright green areas are bone marrow cells that are entering into the wounded area, and they're incorporating into the muscle tissue as you can see right here overlying some of the muscle," Badiavas said.

The hope is to achieve complete regeneration of the tissue.

"So that I, you know, don't feel like I'm going to be like this forever," Marshall said.

The process could take more than a year.

Researchers at the University of Miami are still actively recruiting for this study. Patients usually require between four and 16 treatments over the course of six months. Another trial is also being planned to test the use of donor bone marrow stem cells on patients with chronic wounds whose own stem cells have been compromised.


University of Miami Miller School of Medicine