India has seen a steady rise in burn injury cases and skin reconstruction surgeries. To facilitate, the growing demand, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will soon establish North India’s first government-run skin bank facility, senior AIIMS officials told The Indian Express.
They are also looking forward to developing “artificial skin” in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, to bridge the gap in demand and supply of skin donation.
Dr Rajesh Malhotra, Chief, Jai Prakash Narayan Apex (JPNA) Trauma Centre at AIIMS, said, “We will soon be launching North India’s first skin bank facility. The bank will be in close co-ordination with the institute’s bone bank facility. We are in the process of procuring medical equipment. We have also sought regulatory clearances from the Delhi government. In all probability, the skin bank should start early next year.”
The facility will also accept cadaver donations of brain-dead persons, confirmed Dr Maneesh Singhal, Head, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Burns Surgery at AIIMS. The technology to be adopted by the facility is expected to preserve donated skin for a period of 4-5 years.
Similar to other organ donations, the harvesting is done within six hours of death and usually consists of skin taken from legs, thighs and back. In the process, only the uppermost layer of skin is harvested.
“The stored skin can be used for patients who have deep burns, chemical burns, electrical burns and radiation burns,” the specialist told the publication.
For cadaver donations, the doctors play to use glycerol, which has anti-bacterial properties, to preserve frozen skin, said Dr Singhal. “Cadaver skin will be stored in sub-zero temperatures at the bank. Glycerol will keep the donated skin free of infection,” he said.
The current demand for skin for reconstruction surgeries due to congenital, trauma, cancer and burn injuries is as high as 150% at AIIMS.
India’s largest burn unit, Sajfdarjung Hospital also lacks a skin bank. Therefore the AIIMS move to work with IIT-Delhi to develop “affordable artificial skin.”
The skin bank cannot bridge the gap between the required demand (and supply) until the awareness and willingness to donate skin reaches the general public.
“The only way forward is to develop artificial skin,” Dr Singhal said.