A “spray-on skin” developed by scientists could greatly improve recovery from chronic leg ulcers, research suggests.
The treatment consists of skin cells suspended in blood clotting proteins which is sprayed on the wound.
In a study of 228 patients with venous leg ulcers, it accelerated healing and improved the chances of wound closure.
Those receiving the most effective dosage were 52% more likely to see their ulcer clear up after three months than untreated patients.
They also experienced a 16% greater reduction in wound area after seven days. In addition, the treatment helped wounds to close 21 days earlier.
Dr Herbert Slade, one of the study authors from Healthpoint Biotherapeutics in Fort Worth, Texas, US, said: “The treatment we tested in this study has the potential to vastly improve recovery times and overall recovery from leg ulcers without the need for a skin graft.”
The research is published today in The Lancet medical journal.
Venous leg ulcers, the most common type of leg ulcer, affect about one in 500 people in the UK.
The wounds develop when high blood pressure in the veins of the legs damages the skin, causing it to break down.
People with restricted movement, obese individuals and those with varicose veins all face a greater risk of developing venous leg ulcers.
Standard treatment consists of compression bandages, infection control and wound dressings. However, this only heals between 30% and 70% of ulcers.
While skin grafts have been used, this results in a further wound at the site from which the transplanted skin is taken.
Dr Slade added: “The spray-on solution can be available as soon as required – skin grafts take a certain amount of time to prepare, which exposes the patient to further discomfort and risk of infection.”
In a linked comment published in The Lancet, German expert Dr Matthias Augustin, from the University Medical Centre, Hamburg, wrote: “Even though compression is, and will remain, the basis of venous leg ulcer treatment, hard-to-heal ulcers do need additional therapy.
“In these wounds, prolonged futile, conservative treatment will increase costs without additional benefit. Therefore, the temporary higher costs for additional cell therapy can be justified as an investment in improved healing.”
He said the “skin spray” treatment might also benefit other types of chronic wound, such as ischaemic and diabetic foot ulcers.