A woman who lost a third of her skin to deadly flesh-eating bacteria has been saved by a new miracle spray made of her own skin cells. After surgically removing vast portions of her skin, doctors in Phoenix, Arizona, appealed to the FDA for permission to use the experimental skin spray to treat her wounds, and were amazed by the results.
Back in January, 37-year-old teacher,Christin Lipinski went to the doctors as she felt unwell and had a pain in her armpit. The doctors originally diagnosed her with flu, until she was rushed to a trauma center due to severe pain. That’s when they realized she didn’t have the flu, instead, she was infected with a flesh-eating strain of Streptococcus bacteria, leading to a potentially fatal disease known as necrotizing fasciitis.
Lipinski was taken into surgery to tackle the infection, which had spread from her armpit down her left arm and the left side of her torso. The surgeons removed the infected tissue to stop the bacteria from moving further through her body, and eventually, about a third of her skin was lost.
“It was so deep we basically went down to muscle,” Dr Kevin Foster, who treated her, told New Scientist.
Because Lipinski had already lost so much skin, the normal procedure of removing more large portions to create skin grafts wasn’t really an option. So, Foster and his team asked the FDA if they could use an experimental therapy known as ReCell, which is currently being tested for its effectiveness as a treatment for burns.
ReCell spray is created from a small patch of skin taken from the patient’s own body. An enzyme is then used to break this skin down into individual cells. These are then sprayed over the wound, where they divide and then join up, helping to form new skin across the entirety of the damaged flesh – naturally, wounds heal more slowly from the outside in.
In addition to this treatment, Lipinski received a meshed autograft, which is essentially a patch of skin removed from the thigh and pierced with tiny holes so that it can be stretched over a wound and become bigger than its original size.
The area was then dressed and left to recover. A week later, the dressing was removed, and to the doctors’ astonishment, the skin was 95 percent healed. The skin did not look perfect – it was a little red and bumpy – but the doctors expect that its appearance will improve with time.
Importantly, the wound healed much better than it would have done if only the meshed autograft had been used, suggesting that if this special skin spray eventually hits the wider market, it could quite literally save our skin.