Manitoba burn survivors to benefit from $2M donation to HSC Foundation

Quicker healing, less scarring, and less pain. That’s how a multi-million dollar donation made to the Health Sciences Centre Foundation Wednesday is expected to help Manitoba burn survivors.

The Firefighters Burn Fund announced a donation of $2 million to the foundation which will fund research into the use of stem cells to help treat burn survivors in the province.

Dr. Ed Buchel, HSC’s medical director of surgery, said this will allow the hospital to “transform” the way it cares for burn survivors.

“It’s really allowing us to venture into areas of burn care that we’ve never been able to do, never been able to consider,” Buchel said.

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HSC will hire a dedicated researcher who will work with a patient’s very own stem cells.

“These stem cells are taken from a specific patient, purified, grown in the lab and then converted back down from fat stem cells into many other types of stem cells that can stimulate growth and regrowth of tissue,” Buchel said.

The cells’ interactions with skin grafts and scars will allow for dramatic improvements in burn care. The cells will be grown in HSC’s labs.

Buchel said it is the first time a patient’s own stem cells have been studied to improve burn care in Manitoba and the process is very rare in Canada.

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Martin Johnson, chair of the Firefighters’ Burn Fund, said research has improved vastly over the years and allowed those with even 90 per cent burns to survive.

“We get 80-100 people each year hospitalized with their burns,” Johnson said. “We’ve done what we’ve could to support the staff and the hospital and help those injuries heal better.”

The donation was made in the form of an endowed gift and the HSC Foundation said they will allow significant amounts of income to be drawn off it on a yearly basis to fund the stem cell labs.

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