Burns not only destroy the barrier function of the skin but also alter the perceptions of pain, temperature, and touch. Different strategies have been developed over the years to cover deep and extensive burns with the ultimate goal of regenerating the barrier function of the epidermis while recovering an acceptable aesthetic aspect. However, patients often complain about a loss of skin sensation and even cutaneous chronic pain. Cutaneous nerve regeneration can occur from the nerve endings of the wound bed, but it is often compromised by scar formation or anarchic wound healing. Restoration of pain, temperature, and touch perceptions should now be a major challenge to solve in order to improve patients' quality of life. In addition, the cutaneous nerve network has been recently highlighted to play an important role in epidermal homeostasis and may be essential at least in the early phase of wound healing through the induction of neurogenic inflammation. Although the nerve regeneration process was studied largely in the context of nerve transections, very few studies have been aimed at developing strategies to improve it in the context of cutaneous wound healing. In this concise review, we provide a description of the characteristics of and current treatments for extensive burns, including tissue-engineered skin approaches to improve cutaneous nerve regeneration, and describe prospective uses for autologous skin-derived adult stem cells to enhance recovery of the skin's sense of touch.
Keywords: Cell biology; Epidermis; Neuron; Skin grafts; Tissue regeneration; Transplantation.