Among the many types of skin injuries, full-thickness second-degree burns and third-degree burns have always been the most difficult to treat. Unlike first-degree and superficial second-degree burns, deeper second-degree and third-degree burns, especially on large areas of the body, typically cannot heal on their own. Burns are classified as third degree when all layers of skin are destroyed, and once all layers are gone, the only option for many years has been to harvest skin from another area of the body and graft it onto the burned area. As you can imagine, the additional pain and trauma after a skin graft can take a huge toll on the mental and physical health of a person who has already been traumatized so much by a severe burn. Thankfully, there are two new promising treatments for deep second-degree and third-degree burns that allow doctors and patients to skip the skin harvesting and grafting. 

1. Skin-Enzyme Spray

A skin-regenerating spray that was developed in Australia and is currently approved for use by doctors in Europe, Canada, and several other countries is currently not yet FDA approved in the US, but it may be soon. The FDA is currently allowing the spray to be tested for the US market only on patients who have extensive burn injuries and little intact skin left to be used as donor sites for skin grafts. As more doctors use the spray successfully to help burn victims, full approval will likely become imminent in the future. 

This spray is not ready made but instead consists of a liquid that is only turned into a skin-regenerating spray once a small sample of a burn victim's skin is chemically broken down into enzymes and then added to the liquid base. Once fully prepared, the solution is sprayed onto the area where skin needs to be regenerated. The skin enzymes in the solution then begin triggering the skin regenerating process (similar to the process your skin uses to heal a scrape or cut). 

This spray cannot only be used alone but also in conjunction with a skin-grafting procedure. After donor skin is removed to graft to the burn-inflicted area of the body, the spray can be used to help the donor site heal more quickly and smoothly. 

2. Skin-Regenerating Hydrogel 

While this treatment is still in the early stages of development and not yet tested on humans, researchers at John Hopkins University have created a hydrogel that could potentially become a great new way to replace skin after a third-degree burn in lieu of skin grafts. The researchers originally created the gel only to use as a base place to then add skin stem cells into to attempt to create a skin-like structure that could then be transplanted onto the wounds of burn victims. However, once researchers began testing the hydrogel alone, they discovered that they did not need to add the stem cells because the hydrogel alone performed the task so well.

In studies conducted on mice, the researchers placed the hydrogel on third-degree burns and were amazed at what the simple polymer hydrogel device was able to do. Once the hydrogel was placed on the burn wounds of the mice, the wounds began to heal, and that would have been impossible without the hydrogel. Not only did skin tissue begin to grow and cover the wounded areas, but blood vessels and even hair follicles grew. The resulting skin was also scarless. This smooth, scarless nature of the new skin is a huge advantage because even when skin grafts are used to successfully repair the wounds of burn victims, the victims still have to endure the emotional distress that comes with having large portions of their bodies covered in scars for the rest of their lives. 

New burn treatments are emerging that may soon allow doctors other options for treating deep burns that were once only treatable with skin grafts. These advances in modern medicine will likely be embraced by doctors and burn victims once they are ready for the market, since skin grafts and the scars they leave can cause so much additional physical and emotional trauma for burn victims who have already suffered so much.