Other questions are the duration of the effect (because as Vogel noted, "these were fairly short-term studies"), and how many other conditions the technique might be used to treat.
"One other condition we are talking about is anemia," Vogel said. "That has been actively thought of in our laboratory. But that is far in the future. It would require much tighter regulation than we now can achieve."
And while this was "a first step in a small animal model," a point has been proven, he added.
"It shows we can engineer a skin graft, can graft it successfully, and that the product that the skin cells make gets access to the bloodstream, which is not trivial. It gets there in sufficient levels to have a biological effect," Vogel said.
Dorothy Supp, an associate investigator at Shriner's Hospital for Children in Cincinnati and adjunct research professor in the University of Cincinnati's department of surgery, who has her own research project using modified skin cells, called the new study "very exciting."
"My work involves generating modifications in skin cells to improve healing," Supp said. Like Vogel, she uses a retrovirus to modify the cells. "What we would like to do is increase the expression of beneficial genes and decrease the expression of harmful ones," she said.
Skin graft therapy is nearing medical application after 20 years of effort, Supp explained. "The skin is a model system for gene therapy, and the fact that you can put a small graft on an animal and get a systemic response is very exciting," she said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on skin grafts.
SOURCES: Jonathan Vogel, M.D., senior investigator, dermatology branch, U.S. National Canc
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