In large patches of ulcerous skin, surviving cells prioritize inflammation and wound closure. That’s what they’re programmed to do. Cells, however, can be reprogrammed—as laboratory procedures have demonstrated. Now cells can also be reprogrammed in living tissue, wounded tissue, to expedite healing. No balm is necessary, unless stem cell factors may be considered a kind of balm.

The new approach to cellular reprogramming was developed by a Salk Institute team of scientists led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Ph.D., a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratories at the Salk Institute. Dr. Belmonte and his team found a way to directly convert the cells in an open wound into new skin cells. Essentially, the scientists reprogrammed the cells to a stem-cell-like state.

Reprogramming wound-resident cells could be useful for healing skin damage, countering the effects of aging, and helping us to better understand skin cancer. It could also …