Scientists re-grow skin of young man who suffered third-degree burns

A young Georgia man who was severely burned in a fire has another chance at life after doctors biopsied, then re-transplanted his own skin to grow a new layer.

Fox 5 Atlanta reported that Taylor Duke, 19, of Austell, Ga., suffered third-degree burns on nearly 70 percent of his body after a diesel can exploded while he was lighting a fire about four months ago. Duke, an avid hunter, had been on a campsite in Cuthbert, Ga., and didn’t realize someone else had mixed gas with the diesel.

When Duke arrived at WellStar Cobb Hospital, in Austell, he was in critical condition.

But a cultured epithelial autograft helped restore his burned skin. For the procedure, doctors biopsied a postage stamp-sized piece of non-burned skin from under Taylor’s arm, and then sent it to a lab that develops Epicel skin grafts using healthy skin tissue.

"From a small biopsy, you can grow as much skin as you need to cover him three times over,” Becca Coley, nurse manager of burn services at WellStar, told Fox 5 Atlanta. “You just continue and continue to grow."

Within four weeks, Vericel Corporation, a Boston-based biomedical company, generated 130 sheets of skin with which surgeons covered Duke’s acute burns like patchwork.

"When they put it on me, they had to put me on ventilator because I had to be still so that it would take,” Duke told the news station.

More on this...

Inpatient physical rehabilitation is next for Duke, who said he is “motivated” and ready to return home.

Doctors expect Duke’s skin to heal in two to three years, but his mother, Velda Duke, said her son's new skin is a good first step.

“That's just amazing to have smooth skin after all he's been through,” she told Fox 5 Atlanta.