There are exciting new alternatives in skin grafting.

Skin grafts are a major component of more severe wound healing regimens. These grafts are a rather elegant solution to a potentially fatal problem: Take skin from a donor and place it on the actual wound site. With the proper medical care, these grafts can last a lifetime and save or improve countless patients’ lives.

However, skin grafts are not a totally perfect solution, and there are certain inherent risks. Not only do some people require secondary grafts, but also many patients experience decreased sensitivity, scarring, skin discoloration and even frequent infections.

It’s with those side effects in mind that researchers have developed alternatives to skin grafts, a series of innovative techniques that are often just as if not more effective than the current protocol. Here are just a few such examples:

Genetically modified pig skin

Synthetic or bioengineered skin are common grafting options in hospitals all across the country. However, in recent years, physicians and surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have begun experimenting with the use of skin grafts from genetically modified pigs. Unlike standard skin grafts or even certain synthetic models, these specialized grafts lack the protein that causes rejection from pig-to-primate transplants. According to the hospital’s own data, doctors were able to use the grafts for twice the time of normal procedures. Additionally, the team found that the genetically modified grafts developed a vascular system within just four days, a stark contrast to other graft options available.

Xpansion Microautografting System

In many cases, especially those dealing with severe burns, there simply isn’t enough donor skin to adequately graft to the patient’s damaged or necrotic tissue. It’s that very concern that has led to the recent development of the Xpansion Microautografting System. This device, which looks similar to a combination paintbrush and razor, is able to expand traditional split-thickness skin grafts up to nine times. That means physicians can cover far more of the wound with less initial donor skin, all without any increased risk of infections or other side effects associated with standard grafting. In operating on laboratory pigs, researchers were able to achieve full wound healing in just under 14 days.

Cellutome epidermal harvesting system

Though it looks like little more than a clear Band-Aid, the cellutome epidermal harvesting system is an exciting new breakthrough in skin grafting. Speaking to KLS.com, Dr. Marc Robins, who helped develop the approach in early 2013, said the system is nothing like standard skin grafts. Instead, the system, which includes a small application device, uses both heat and suction to remove dead skin cells. In a patient who experienced a large open wound on her thigh, the skin began growing back in approximately a week. And unlike most other skin grafts, the cellutome system doesn’t leave any scars or hypopigmented patches near the donor site.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients.