Your skin is the largest organ in your body and acts as a barrier between you and the outside world.

Burns are one of the most common types of injury to your skin. Each year, more than 11 million burn injuries worldwide require medical attention.

Burns can be caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, radiation, or sunlight. They can cause complications like bacterial infections, scarring, and bleeding. A burn that covers more than 30 percent of your body can potentially be fatal.

Severe burns are often treated with a skin graft. During a skin graft, a piece of unburned skin is surgically removed and used to cover the site of the burn.

However, grafts may not be practical for large burns that take up a large percentage of your body. Skin grafts also lead to scarring around the area where skin is removed.

The stem cell regenerating gun is an experimental burn treatment option invented in 2008 that works like a paint gun to spray your own skin cells onto a burn.

Right now, it’s still an experimental treatment for second degree burns, but scientists are working on improving the technology for more serious burns.

Keep reading to find out how the stem cell regenerating gun works and how it’s currently used.

Both the ReCell stem cell regenerating gun and SkinGun are being studied in experimental treatments. These stem cell regenerating devices have been compared to paint guns that shoot out skin cells.

For the ReCell device, a burn surgeon first takes a small square sample of healthy cells from your skin. Your skin has stem cells in the basal layer of your skin, which are retrieved within the sample.

The skin sample can be up to 2 centimeters by 2 centimeters (a little under a square inch). Multiple skin samples can be used for large burns.

The skin cells are mixed with enzymes that separate the skin cells. The skin sample is then mixed to a buffer solution. The final step is to filter the cells and create a liquid, called Regenerative Epithelial Suspension, which contains all the types of skin cells needed for optimal healing.

The liquid suspension is sprayed over your burn wound. The wound is then covered in bandages with two tubes running through that act as a vein and artery as the area heals.

This technology allows the original skin cell sample to expand by 8,000 percent to roughly 320 square centimeters, or 50 square inches.

The whole process takes approximately half an hour with ReCell technology and about 90 minutes with the SkinGun.

The benefits of using a skin stem cell gun over other treatments include:

  • drastically shorter recovery time
  • reduced infection risk
  • painless procedure
  • natural looking skin
  • minimal scarring

No negative side effects have been reported with the use of ReCell for managing burns. The technology uses your own skin cells, so this avoids the risk of triggering an immune response.

But like with any surgical procedure, there’s a risk of developing an infection when being treated with a stem cell regenerating gun.

However, one prospective study found that only 3 percent of people treated for second degree burns developed an infection with ReCell.

Burns are classified differently depending on how many layers of skin they go through. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • First degree burns only affect your top layer of skin and cause redness and minimal damage. They can usually be treated at home.
  • Second degree burns damage the deep layers of your skin and may need skin grafting in severe cases.
  • Third degree burns damage every layer of your skin, and can damage your nerves. These burns need immediate medical attention.
  • Fourth degree burns damage every layer of skin and the tissues underneath, such as fat or muscle. Like third degree burns, they’re considered a medical emergency.

As of now, stem cell regenerating guns are only available for second degree burns. It’s thought that the ReCell gun might eventually be able to treat three types of burns:

  • Second degree burns that don’t require surgery. It’s thought that stem cell regenerating guns could be a potential treatment option for burns that would otherwise be treated with dressings and observation.
  • Second degree burns requiring surgery. Researchers are currently looking at the potential for stem cell regenerating guns to replace skin grafting for second degree burns.
  • Third degree burns requiring surgery. Researchers are currently looking at the potential of stem cell regenerating guns to be used along with skin grafting to treat serious burns.

The stem cell regenerating gun was invented by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. Right now, it’s still an experimental treatment option for second degree burns.

It isn’t yet available for commercial use in the United States. The ReCell gun is available for commercial use in Europe, Australia, and China.

Technology involving stem cells is highly regulated in the United States. However, the ReCell gun is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on thermal burns.

The company is continuing to develop its treatment protocol before releasing their product for commercial use in hospitals.

Stem cell regenerating guns aren’t currently available for use in the United States. Right now, they’re being used as experimental treatments for second degree burns. In the future, they could potentially be used with skin grafting for more serious burns.

You can treat most minor burns at home, but medical professionals should only treat serious burns. If any of the following apply to your burn, it’s a good idea to see a doctor right away:

  • Your burn is more than 3 inches wide.
  • You have signs of an infection.
  • You think you may have a third degree burn.
  • You haven’t had a tetanus shot in at least 5 years.