Amniotic Wound Dressing Could Save Limbs
Diabetes rates continue to rise, and as they do so do the foot ulcers and chronic wounds that can lead to amputations in the more severe cases. The fight is on in the medical community to find new ways to save limbs.
To that end, medical professionals are now turning to wound dressings made from human amniotic membrane, a tissue found in the human placenta. With this innovative approach to treating wounds, doctors are giving another option to patients whose wounds won't heal using existing treatments. The method uses a substance that would otherwise end up discarded as medical waste following a birth.
The human amniotic membrane is a thin, intricate protein mesh that covers the placenta as a fetus develops. When a pregnant woman's "water breaks," this is the protective layer that ruptures. Following birth, the membrane comes out of the woman's body along with the rest of the placenta.
Diabetic ulcers affect 15 percent of people with diabetes during their lifetimes, and these wounds lead to more than 70,000 amputations annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When you put membrane on the wound, the wound starts to heal faster," said Dr. Dusko Ilic, a physician and stem cell science professor at King's College London who specializes in regenerative medicine.
Studies have verified that wounds heal significantly faster when amniotic membrane products are used, yet Ilic found that there are only two major companies in Europe that are making products that use the membrane. The number of manufacturers is larger in the United States, but dressings made from the membrane still aren't commonly found in hospitals or clinics.
The downside of using amniotic membrane products is the cost. "There are different sizes, but the price can range from $400 to $4,000 easily," said Chris Liscio, director of regenerative tissue products at Derma Sciences, a medium-sized company in Princeton, New Jersey, that makes amniotic membrane dressings. Insurance coverage for amniotic tissue products varies widely as well.
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