Burn Featured Research

Highlights from 20 years of burn research

On December 5, 1998, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre (RTBC) moved to its new home at Sunnybrook. Since then, staff and researchers at the centre have been working to advance the way we care for patients in our burn centre. Here are just a few research highlights from the past 20 years:

1. 3D skin printing

It sounds like science fiction, but Sunnybrook researchers have developed a machine that produces human-like skin to treat burns. A handheld version of the skin printer was unveiled this year; one day, physicians may be able to print skin directly onto a patient’s wound at the bedside.

2. Stem cell and tissue engineering

This newly published study (in November 2018) found that skin discarded during burn surgery has useable stem cells. With human trials beginning in early 2019, this discovery could be ground-breaking for burn patients at Sunnybrook and across the country.

3. Hypermetabolism

A Sunnybrook study found the behaviour of fat in the body fundamentally changes after a severe burn. This state of hypermetabolism causes an increase in energy expenditure and insulin resistance in the patient, and the resulting complications can be fatal.

4. Sunnybrook Protocol for treatment of SJS/TENS

A team of Sunnybrook specialists developed the Sunnybrook Protocol for SJS/TENS. It’s the first Canadian protocol for dealing with the disease, which happens when the immune system attacks the outer layers of skin, the eyes, genitals, throat and lips, similar to flesh-eating disease. Of the 300 patients treated every year at the Ross Tilley Burn Centre – the largest burn centre in Canada – up to 10 are admitted with SJS/TENS.

5.  Reducing blood loss

This study found that a modified surgical technique significantly reduced the number of blood transfusions needed by burn patients.

6. Formation of the Canadian Burn Association

After hosting several successful burn symposiums, Sunnybrook played an integral role in the development of the recently created Canadian Burn Association.

7. Glucose control

This Sunnybrook-led study found that patients with good glucose control had a lower incidence of infection, sepsis and death compared with patients with poor glucose control. It also found that patients with good glucose control had milder inflammatory and hypermetabolic responses.

8. Ventilation modes

High-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) is an unconventional ventilation strategy in burn patients. However, this Sunnybrook study found that it played a useful role in the supportive management of burn patients with severe oxygenation failure, unresponsive to conventional ventilation. Importantly, HFOV allowed surgery to proceed in patients who may have otherwise been too unstable to go to the operating room.

9. Use of albumin in burns

This review article examines the use of human albumin (HA), the most abundant protein in human blood plasma, in burn treatment.

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for the Ross Tilley Burn Centre, Critical Care and Infectious Diseases programs at Sunnybrook.

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