Gel made from patient's blood speeds healing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treating skin wounds with a gel made from a patient’s own blood platelets speeded healing, researchers said in a study showing how doctors may be able to harness the body’s innate healing ability.

File photo shows Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, with an injured nose, during the NBA Western Conference semifinals in Phoenix, Arizona, May 8, 2007. Researchers have found that treating skin wounds with a gel made from a patient's own blood platelets speeded healing. REUTERS/Jeff Topping

Skin wounds treated with this gel healed about 10 percent more quickly than wounds in the same people treated with only an antibiotic ointment, Monday’s study in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery showed.

The researchers cautioned that this was a small pilot study -- only eight people were examined -- but said the concept could change the way doctors deal with wounds, from surgical incisions to, potentially, internal injuries.

“I’m excited about it because it changes our way of thinking about wounds. Instead of passively just watching it heal, we can now actively intervene to possibly speed it up,” said study leader Dr. David Hom of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio.

Hom said in a telephone interview that improving wound healing could get patients out of the hospital and home more quickly after surgery, reduce the chances of complications and help people such as diabetics or chemotherapy patients prone to poor healing.

Hom said the next step was to put together a larger study to test the concept.

Wounds that ordinarily would heal fully in 28 to 30 days instead healed two to three days more quickly when the concentrated topical gel was applied to them, Hom said.

The researchers processed a patient’s own blood into a concentrated plasma packed with platelets -- vital to blood clotting -- and then into a gel that could be applied directly to the wound.

Four men and four women volunteered to get 10 small wounds, five on each thigh. The gel was applied to the wounds on one thigh but not the other, and the healing process was tracked for six months.

“By concentrating a person’s own blood and giving it back to the patient into the patient’s wound, we basically concentrated the growth factors (proteins) which are important in wound healing in attempting to improve their healing,” Hom said.

Hom noted that nothing foreign was being applied to the wound. “You’re just taking from the patient,” added Hom, who conducted the study while at the University of Minnesota.