Simon Archibald, vice president and chief scientific officer at Integra Life Sciences, lectured last Wednesday about the applications of Integra’s latest inventions, DuraGen and NeuraGen. Archibald explained in detail how these products help patients recover more quickly and fully from serious injuries.
DuraGen is a product that is used to promote regeneration of skin or membranes inside the body. When applied to an injured area, DuraGen can promote the regeneration of new cells, meaning the body will produce a new membrane or new skin rather than scar tissue.
Archibald turned the crowd’s attention to a Power Point slide of a photo of a badly injured girl. All of the skin on the right side of her face was gone. In cases such as this, one would expect that complete recovery would be impossible. With DuraGen, however, Archibald said she could completely recover, and even develop an entirely new layer of skin on her face.
DuraGen is made of two layers: an outer silicone rubber and an inner collagen matrix layer. Ordinarily, when the body is injured, it sends cells to the surface to produce scar tissue and shield itself from infection.
When DuraGen is applied, instead of reaching the surface, the scar-producing cells reach DuraGen’s collagen matrix. Collagen is a material present in most mammals, so the scar-producing cells recognize it as skin.
Since the cells encounter “skin” rather than an injury, the cells integrate with the “skin” and produce new skin cells. Eventually, the collagen matrix layer is completely replaced by the body’s own skin cells.
Essentially DuraGen acts as a temporary skin that encourages the body to create new skin. As the new skin grows, DuraGen slowly reduces until it is completely replaced by the patient’s own skin. This remarkable product has many applications in a number of medical procedures.
NeuraGen, a tube made of collagen, is used as a “nerve guide,” Archibald said. Damaged nerves are repaired by sewing the ends of the damaged nerve to the ends of the NeuraGen tube. According to Archibald, the tube seals off the ends of the nerve from the rest of the body and exposes it only to the inside of the tube. The tube is created so that the conditions inside it will promote the growth of the nerve’s ends. Eventually, the ends will meet at the middle of the tube and reattach themselves.
This regeneration process takes about two years to complete, Archibald said, but once it is finished, the patient is left with a new fully-functional nerve.
Though these products are available now, Archibald said that not everyone will accept a product instantly.