EpiCel: Rogelio Regrows His Own Skin!


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Last November, 53-year-old Rogelio Garcia suffered life altering burns to most of his body. At best, patients with deep burns have just over 60 percent chance of survival – Garcia’s was only 20 percent. however, his doctors were able to give him a fighting chance by doing something remarkable – growing his own skin.

It’s a new beginning for Rogelio Garcia. With his brother looking on, he is trying to move past what happened to him just a few months ago. He was found by his local firefighters on fire and unconscious.

“I felt the fire go up my body,” Garcia demonstrates for Ivanhoe.

At the time, Clifford Sheckter, MD, Associate Director of Regional Burn Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Garcia’s chance for survival was 20 percent. The hospital worked tirelessly to save him then, remove dead tissue. That left doctors with a unique challenge.

(Read Full Interview)

“Sixty-five to 70 percent of his total body surface area was burned. You only have 30 percent of your skin available to take to heal the rest of that,” Dr. Sheckter explained.

Skin grafts alone couldn’t cover the wounds, so doctors used an innovative treatment called EpiCel. Five thousand square centimeters of his skin was grown inside a lab – all originating from the stem cells of Garcia’s own skin.

Dr. Sheckter says, “The outer layer of our skin is called the epidermis and it’s one of the few tissues in our body that can actually regenerate.”

EpiCel was just one of nine operations that Garcia had while he was in a coma for two months.

“My brother told me everything that happened. I survived and that’s wonderful,” Garcia expresses.

After lots of physical therapy, Garcia was released from the hospital just four months after his accident. Doctors credit the EpiCel treatment and his determination for his quick progress.

“Rogelio is an absolute fighter,” Dr. Sheckter exclaims.

According to the EpiCel website, burn patients who undergo their treatment have shown an increased survival rate of more than 80 percent. Dr. Sheckter says, unfortunately, donor skin can never heal a burn because the body always rejects donor skin.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Joe Alexander, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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EpiCel website





REPORT:      MB #5079

BACKGROUND: EpiCel treatment, also known as cultured epidermal autograft or CEA, is a specific type of grafting treatment in which a part of a patient’s skin is sent to a lab to create new skin. This is for people who are treated for severe burns, making  regular skin graft surgery no longer a viable option. EpiCel grafts are developed in incubators and then the finished grafts are sent back to the surgeons, who then replace the outer layer of the damaged area. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) has been reported in burn injury patients after being treated with EpiCel with the most common adverse reactions occurring in less than two percent of patients.

(Source: https://apnews.com/press-release/globe-newswire/sports-business-health-burns-sports-medicine-b16dfb3d35aeee3b3d6039452bf52f1d)

DIAGNOSING: EpiCel treatment is normally a last resort for people when skin grafts would not be enough to save someone’s life. Third-degree burns are the most severe burns. Third degree burns can be life threatening and normally require skin grafts. When skin grafts do not work for a third-degree burn victim, an EpiCel procedure becomes a potentially life-saving option. While burns are common as close to a half a million people go to the emergency room every year with burn injuries, most of those injuries are for first or second degree burns and are not as severe.

(Source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12063-burns)

OTHER TREATMENTS: Burn victims not only have to physically recover from their injuries, but many burn victims also suffer from psychological distress and a number of other mental health issues. Most burn survivors average scores on depression range from mild to moderate, while 18-45% of burn survivors have moderate to severe symptoms of depression, years after their injuries. Burn survivors who are feeling this way may find ways to cope such as educating family members and maybe even non pharmaceutical ways of dealing with pain such as relaxation or hypnosis.

(Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038408/)


James Chisum

(562) 493-6023


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Clifford Sheckter, MD, burn and plastic surgeon

Read the entire Q&A