According the UK's National Health Service, one person in 50 over the age of 80 will develop venous leg ulcers. The ulcers occur when high blood pressure in the veins of the legs causes damage to the adjacent skin, ultimately resulting in the breakdown of that tissue. While the ulcers can be quite resistant to treatment, a team of scientists is now reporting success in using a sort of "spray-on skin" to heal them.

Ordinarily, venous leg ulcers are treated using compression bandages, infection control, and standard wound dressings. This approach only heals 30 to 70 percent of ulcers, however. Skin grafts are also sometimes used, although using one results in another skin wound on the patient, at the site from which the graft was taken.

Developed by Texas-based Healthpoint Biotherapeutics, the spray-on solution consists of neonatal keratinocytes and fibroblasts (skin cells), which are suspended in a liquid made up of various proteins associated with blood clotting.

It was tested using a group of 228 patients afflicted with the ulcers, all of whom were also treated with compression bandages. Different dosages were tried, sprayed directly onto the ulcer – or in the case of one control group, not applied at all. It was found that when compared that control group, patients receiving the optimum dosage experienced a 16 percent greater reduction in wound area after seven days. After 12 weeks, they were 52 percent more likely to have achieved wound closure.

Not only were the ulcers on patients receiving the optimum dosage more likely to heal, but they also healed quicker – in the control group, ulcers that did heal took an average of 21 days longer to do so.

"Even though compression is, and will remain, the basis of venous leg ulcer treatment, hard-to-heal ulcers do need additional therapy," said Dr. Matthias Augustin of the University Medical Centre in Hamburg, Germany, who took part in the research. "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."

It has been suggested that the spray-on solution may also be useful in treating other types of chronic wounds, such as ischemic and diabetic foot ulcers.

Source: The Lancet