Michelle SladeAssociate Editor

LifeCell Corp. announced Monday it has started clinicalevaluations of AlloDerm, the human skin replacement itprocesses from living donors, as a permanent remedy for burnpatients.

AlloDerm is designed for grafting to patients who suffer fromfull-thickness (third-degree) burns, pressure ulcers (bed sores)and for plastic surgery patients from whose sking growthshave been removed.

According to Jane Lea Hicks, LifeCell's vice president ofbusiness development, the rejection rate of unprocessed skinused in tissue grafts is extremely high, occurring in themajority of patients within several weeks of application to thewound.

With LifeCell's proprietary tissue engineering process, theepidermal and fibroblast cells that cause rejection are removed,leaving intact the dermis, which is responsible for maintainingskin durability and elasticity. AlloDerm is applied to the burnin a freeze-dried form, and after rehydration is applied prior tosplit-skin grafting. Thus, the product will act as a permanenttemplate upon which full-thickness skin can be restored, usingthe patient's epidermal cells.

Hicks said AlloDerm, which she hopes will be available in 1993,will be used initially to treat patients suffering from deepthird-degree burns.

"Our long-term goal is to be able to take a biopsy of a patient'scells and grow them on the surface of the alloderm to restorethe native cells of the patient, which will cut down on the needto use autografting." Hicks said. AlloDerm, she added, iscurrently being used jointly with autograft procedures.

"We anticipate that this natural skin replacement tissue willprovide an improvement in the healing characteristics ofsevere burns, including reduced scarring and contracture, aswell as reduce the overall treatment cost," said Paul Frison, theLifeCell's president and chief executive.

According to The Woodlands, Texas, company, the average costfor treating a patient who is 60 percent burned is estimated tobe in excess of $100,000, primarily because repeated grafts areoften required.

LifeCell plans to extend its studies of AlloDerm to pressureulcers, venous and diabetic ulcers, and to repair surgical scars.

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.