UT Southwestern Burn Study

Before I get into any of the details, let me give a bit of background on the study and also make it very clear that the implements used are designed to burn and leave a scar, not to remove tattoos. My involvement in this study is to further the research of burn care, wound management and the reduction of scar tissue on burn patients.

It’s been a year now since my first communications with Dr. Vincent Gabriel, Clinical Director North Texas Burn Rehabilitation Model System. He approached me with a with a very radical idea. To find volunteers to receive small burns that could be studied to help future burn survivors. In his own words:

“Our center admits about 500 people per year with serious burns, and I see about another 1000 per year in our outpatient clinics. Overall, about one third are children. Our survival rate is over 94% and as such, scarring is a major problem for my patients.

I contacted you because of a major quandary that we have in researching burn care. As it turns out, hypertrophic burn scars and keloids are uniquely human conditions. Despite the best efforts of many laboratories around the world, there is no acceptable animal model that closely resembles human scars. The closest model is a female red duroc pig that makes a thick scar, but biologically, it is still significantly different from human scar.

Studying scarring is therefore rather difficult. From patients that present to the hospital, we never have pre-existing tissue to study and burns that we can study come from differing depths. As well, our treatments aim to minimize scarring.

As a result, I thought that if I could find a sample of people that wanted to make scars, perhaps I could work with them to study their wounds and scars to better understand the biology behind scarring.”

It’s taken almost a year and several revisions before the review board finally accepted his proposal, but his diligence and hard work finally paid off. The procedure may seem a bit barbaric, but let me assure the branding strikes are virtually painless.

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Dr Gabriel taking an initial biopsy

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As you can see the biopsy leaves a small hole

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An iron being heated to strike the skin

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A brand freshly done

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The same brand just moments after the second biopsy

The sample collection phase of the study should be over by April.  After that it will take about another 6 months for the analysis done and the results to be published. Once it becomes public record, I will post a link in this blog.

To both Dr Gabriel and the volunteers involved in this study, I would like to thank you all for allowing me to participate. i honestly feel that the work we are doing will advance the understanding and treatment of burns to better the lives of burn survivors around the world.