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Salt Lake City-based PolarityTE Inc., has successfully developed a patented approach in tissue engineering where they regenerated skin and stimulated hair growth in pigs with burns and abrasions. This has paved the way for a scientific breakthrough that could lead to the regeneration of completely functional human skin.

Treatment of burns and wounds could be possible using this approach of tissue engineering where patient’s own healthy tissue is used to re-grow human skin.

Though reconstructive surgery is performed by plastic surgeons on victims with burns and major wounds patients cannot be given what they require the most — their skin.

PolarityTE’s founder and CEO Denver Lough said in an interview that current approaches to treat serious burns were severely limited in their effectiveness and in some cases they were rather very expensive.

Epicel is widely used as a skin graft in burn units that is sold by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Vericel Corp but it does not result in completely thick and functional skin. This gap became the objective of PolarityTE.

Wounded pigs were picked up from an animal facility in Utah and pre-clinical studies were conducted on them by PolarityTE. The company said the use of therapy resulted in scar-less healing, growth of hair follicles, complete wound coverage and the progressive regeneration of all skin layers.

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Successful data from the pre-clinical trials conducted on pigs is now seen as a precursor to effectiveness in human trials since pig skin is more complex and robust than human skin.

Human trial is expected to begin later this year and the cell therapy might hit the market 12 to 18 months subsequently, said Lough, who served as senior plastic surgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital before creating PolarityTE last year.

Lough expressed that if clinically successful the PolarityTE platform could deliver the first scientific breakthrough in wound healing and reconstructive surgery in nearly half a century.

PolarityTE said that the technology also had the potential to develop fully-functional tissues, including bone, muscle, cartilage and the liver.

The company said it would “be opportunistic with financing,” to fund upcoming trials but declined to provide details.

PolarityTE is backed by pharma industry veteran Phil Frost, currently the chief executive of OPKO Health Inc, and a small number of other industry executives.