Summary: Skin is, oddly, both robust and delicate. It can take a lot of punishment, and heal, but it is also susceptible to certain severe injury—such as burns. Usually, with severe burns, a skin graft is required to treat the area, where tissue is taken from a donor area and applied to the injured area. But skin grafts can sometimes be traumatic in and of themselves, especially in an area as delicate as the hand. But a new procedure promises an alternative to skin grafts—and it starts by growing your own new skin.

Woman smiling

A Delicate Hand

The skin on the hands is especially delicate. You can tell this even by looking at them—you can see veins and arteries, tendons and ligaments, under the skin. It’s all that blue and bumpy stuff on top of your hand. This is because the skin around your hands is incredibly thin, which makes sense from an evolutionary point of view: the thinner the skin, the more sensitive the feeling, and your hands are required to be quite sensitive. And, of course, that skin gets thinner as you age—that’s why those bumps become more pronounced the older you get (by the way, there’s a hand treatment for that).

Thin Skin and Burns

But this can work to your disadvantage when it comes to trauma of the hands, especially in the case of burns. The tissue around the hands can be especially difficult to repair, and skin grafts are often required from other parts of the body. In the past there have been procedures which create new skin using donated cells from the patient, but these have tended to require a lengthy amount of time to culture the necessary amount of skin.

Growing Skin Cells

New research, however, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery—Global Open offers the potential to help burn patients using their own skin cells without that lengthy culture. The researchers in this case point to keratinocyte transplantation, which shows better results than typical growing of cell cultures. Keratinocytes are cells in the outermost layer of skin, which make it an optimal choice for this procedure.

Bigger Burns

Typically, this procedure is reserved for burns that cover large parts of the body, because that’s when things get tricky, and skin grafts get complicated. Sometimes, there simply is not enough tissue to go around, as it were. But this new procedure seems to offer some hope.

The Importance of Hands

This doesn’t directly relate to hands, but hands are one of the most burned parts of the body, partly because we use them to do things, and partly because we use them to do stupid things (lighting off fireworks comes to mind). But what we can take away from this is that your hands are delicate.

This being the case, whenever there’s a burn on your hands, you should seek out a qualified hand surgery expert, such as Clear Lake hand surgeon Dr. Charles Polsen, who operates the Clear Lake Hand Clinic near Houston, Texas.

If something’s wrong with your hand, see someone right away.