Skin wounds can come in many shapes and sizes, and can range in severity from a minor cut to a deep burn. In addition, the causes behind skin wounds also vary greatly, and can include burns, cuts, genetic skin conditions, poor circulation, and even diabetes—just to name a few. Skin wounds can be chronic, such as pressure ulcers, or they can be acute, like a burn or cut.
Treating a small wound like a paper cut might only need a Band-Aid. For more severe wounds, skin grafts are often the option of choice. However, in some cases such as severe burns, deeper levels of the skin tissue might be too damaged for a skin graft, leaving few options for patients.
Part of what makes clinical research such a rewarding career is that it offers the opportunity to find better and more effective treatments for patients. And, fortunately, researchers have found one new approach to wound treatment that looks promising, with early clinical trials already showing impressive results.
What is this new treatment, and what do aspiring clinical research professionals need to know about it? Read on to find out.
The Basics of Using Stem Cells to Heal Wounds
One of the reasons why severe wounds are so difficult to treat is that once deeper layers of the skin are damaged, sweat glands and hair follicles can also become affected. This can make it difficult if not impossible for skin grafts to hold. In addition, patients suffering from severe burns might not have enough healthy skin tissue for a graft to be possible. Donated grafts from other patients will only provide a temporary solution, as the body will eventually reject the donated tissue.
Rebuilding damaged tissue would therefore offer an ideal solution, which is why many researchers are investigating the potential of stem cells. Simply put, stem cells are the building blocks behind every tissue in the human body. They are undifferentiated cells that not only produce more stem cells, but that also turn into specialized cells like red blood cells, skin cells, and more. As a result, they can be used to regrow new tissues, potentially repairing even serious wounds that are currently difficult to treat.
Professionals With a Clinical Research Certificate Will Need to Overcome Several Challenges
While stem cells offer plenty of promise, turning that potential into a proven treatment is still no easy task. Professionals with a clinical research certificate know that there are many obstacles that need to be addressed, and that any treatment will also need to be rigorously tested to ensure that it is both effective and safe.
One of the challenges faced by researchers working with stem cells is that millions of stem cells would be needed to cover large wounds. In addition, the types of stem cells necessary, as well as the best method for stimulating them into becoming new skin cells, will also need to be carefully investigated. Whether future treatments will be most effective when injected, sprayed on, or applied to the surface of the wound as a topical gel will also need to be determined. For these reasons, professionals working in clinical research know that many studies will be needed, and that opportunities abound for new graduates looking to make a difference.
Early Trials Are Already Underway
Despite the challenges inherent to developing stem cell treatments, clinical research professionals have already made important headway. As you’ll learn in your clinical safety diploma program, Phase I clinical trials help to determine the safety of a treatment. That’s why many professionals find it encouraging that stem cell treatments for wound care have already reached Phase I and even Phase II trials.
While a long way away from approval for market, reaching this milestone is still no small feat. In fact, only 5 out of every 5,000 drugs progress from pre-clinical testing to Phase I trials. For this reason, students know that while there is much work that lies ahead, the potential of stem cell treatments for wound care is already showing promise.
One recent Phase I trial was recently approved in the United States, which will investigate whether adipose-derived stem cells are safe for treating non-healing leg ulcers. This small trial will only have 36 patients enrolled, but it is by no means the only trial taking place. Several trials, both north and south of the border, are examining the safety and efficacy of stem cells for wound care. For graduates of clinical research programs, the potential to one day work on one of these trials, or another important trial looking to create an effective new treatment, is an uplifting prospect.
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