Scientists in Vienna have created a new technique to help wound healing with skin grafts.

As a review in the journal Wounds pointed out, humans have used skin grafts in some form for nearly 3,000 years. These days, transplanting skin grafts from one body part to another is common for extensive burn treatment. And while grafts have helped thousands of patients each year, they still have inherent setbacks, as Medscape explained. Those complications include infection, the formation of painful hematomas, wound contracture, and other occurrences that greatly delay proper wound healing.

However, a team from the Medical University of Vienna may have found a solution to some of the issues surrounding grafts.

White blood cells to the rescue

In a Scientific Reports study, the Vienna collective developed a post-transplant treatment involving the application of white blood cells. The treatment is meant to address grafts for older patients or those with conditions like diabetes, as these groups are more likely to experience delays in graft healing. Younger people, meanwhile, generally don’t have the same problems when it comes to post-op wound care.

So, to speed up skin graft healing, researchers irradiated the white blood cells of several lab animals, which cause them to become “stressed.” In this state, the white blood cells release several enzyme factors and proteins that help with tissue rebuilding and angiogenesis, or the creation of new blood vessels. The team then collected these various chemicals, synthesized them into a medicine and used them on lab animals with wounds.

Among the more promising results, the new medical compound resulted in more effective skin growth and doubled the usual number of blood vessels.

A promise for the future

While human trials have yet to begin, lead author Stefan Hacker said in an accompanying press release that this new technique could have huge implications.

“Clinical application in humans should not be restricted to burn injuries but can also work for other types of wounds,” he said. “For example it could be beneficial for poorly healing diabetic skin ulcers or for wounds after microsurgical tissue transplantation.”

If the Vienna team’s method does become available, it would make skin grafts even more of a viable option for patients. More recently, researchers across the globe have been looking into alternatives for skin grafts. That includes bioengineered skin, which has less risk of infection or scarring, and negative-pressure wound therapy, wherein circulation is increased to improve wound healing rates.


Advanced Tissue is a leading provider of specialized wound care products.