Plastic surgeon and stem cell researcher, Dr Phan has a passion for healing wounds. That passion led him to discover a way to create skin cells quickly and in large quantities by using the lining from umbilical cords. Rather than using the limited available amount of a patient's skin to help heal a burn, the cells from the umbilical cord lining can provide an unlimited reserve of un-programmed cells to create new skin and bone, and even other body parts, such as the cornea in the eye. Such methods could potentially heal wounds from burns or diseases such as diabetes.
The cells are being manufactured in Denver and the first clinical trial on patients is expected to start early next year.
"Non-healing wounds are a big medical burden everywhere. They are associated with diabetes, stroke, heart problems and ageing," he said, explaining the importance of the technology, which can make it affordable for patients to get skin grafts.
"This is a significant breakthrough."
He said: "There were many challenges in moving forward to perfect a product, and to make it inexpensive enough for everyone to use. It's not easy. But luckily, we managed to do it."