New Zealand Volcano Victims May Be Treated With Methods Pioneered In Arizona

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 2:26pm
Updated: Monday, December 16, 2019 - 9:13am

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Doctor uses spray-on-skin
Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health
Dr. Kevin Foster prepares to treat a patient using ReCell "spray-on-skin" technology.

This week’s White Island volcanic eruption left 16 dead. Dozens more are being treated for severe burns throughout New Zealand and Australia. One method being used to treat some of the patients was pioneered here in the Valley.

So-called “spray-on-skin” allows doctors to combine small amounts of a patient’s healthy skin cells with an enzyme solution to create a spray to grow new skin on a burn.

The treatment was initially created to treat small burns, but over the past 5 years, the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health has developed methods of using it for very large burns. The burn center successfully petitioned the FDA to use it in an experimental treatment in 2014. The FDA approved the system for U.S. use just last year. 

Dr. Kevin Foster said it has been one of the first major developments in treating large burns in about 50 years.

“Really what it amounts to is, you can do fewer operations closer together, and patients’ time in the hospital is reduced fairly significantly,” Foster said.  

Some victims of the New Zealand eruption are reported to have burns on more than 90% of their bodies. New Zealand is reportedly buying more than 1,000-square-feet of skin from donor banks in the U.S. to be used for skin grafts. 

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