Stem cells, niches and scaffolds: Applications to burns and wound care

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The importance of skin to survival, and the devastating physical and psychological consequences of scarring following reparative healing of extensive or difficult to heal human wounds, cannot be disputed. We discuss the significant challenges faced by patients and healthcare providers alike in treating these wounds. New state of the art technologies have provided remarkable insights into the role of skin stem and progenitor cells and their niches in maintaining skin homeostasis and in reparative wound healing. Based on this knowledge, we examine different approaches to repair extensive burn injury and chronic wounds, including full and split thickness skin grafts, temporising matrices and scaffolds, and composite cultured skin products. Notable developments include next generation skin substitutes to replace split thickness skin autografts and next generation gene editing coupled with cell therapies to treat genodermatoses. Further refinements are predicted with the advent of bioprinting technologies, and newly defined biomaterials and autologous cell sources that can be engineered to more accurately replicate human skin architecture, function and cosmesis. These advances will undoubtedly improve quality of life for patients with extensive burns and difficult to heal wounds.

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