In 2017, Saiprasad Proyarekar (31), a resident of Mumbai, got an opportunity at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay’s (IIT-B) Biomedical Engineering and Technology Innovation Centre to work as a Project Research Assistant.
“At IIT-B, I was required to collect problem statements from doctors and healthcare professionals and find a solution for the same. At that time, I understood that many patients struggle to access skin grafts. I decided to work on a low-cost solution to simplify the process of healing open wounds. These can include burn wounds, injuries from an accident, or acid attacks,” Saiprasad, a mechanical engineer with five years of experience in the field of product development, tells The Better India.
In India, 70 lakh people suffer from burn injuries every year. Of these, 1.2 lakh succumb to their injuries, and others require immediate care which includes skin grafting. However, this process is time-consuming as it requires patients to undergo multiple surgeries. It is also expensive.
This treatment is unavailable in many healthcare centres because skin grafting requires special equipment, Saiprasad notes.
When he was researching skin grafting, Saiprasad understood that the procedure is done using healthy skin from the same patient. However, when the injury is covering most of the body parts, healthy skin is sourced from cadaver labs or skin banks.
“But this is not a permanent solution, as another’s person’s skin will not grow like your own. In this process, the patient is forced to visit the hospital multiple times and undergo surgeries. Most of them cannot afford the treatment,” he says.
So Saiprasad started working on a device that could provide skin grafts faster than current surgical procedures. After three years, he has launched the prototype of a skin spray gun, which can cover open wounds within 20 minutes. Meanwhile, other surgical methods take at least 60 minutes, he says.
“The skin spray gun requires a square-shaped patch of healthy skin, up to 5 centimetres, from the patient. This is shredded into smaller bits and mixed along with a special solution developed in-house. Finally, healthcare professionals can use the spray gun to cover 600 centimetres of open wounds on the patient’s body,” Saiprasad says.
The spray creates a covering over the wounds like human skin grafts and stays permanently, he notes.
“This procedure leaves the doctor with more time, and the patient with a smaller medical bill and minimum scars,” says Saiprasad, adding that the research work is being funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, several government organisations including Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and social enterprises like Villgro.
Once the prototype was developed, tests to determine its effectiveness were conducted on meat skin sourced from butcheries. However, this did not yield the desired results. So human skin was sourced from Masina Hospital in Mumbai for research purposes.
“The tests were successful and the prototype was ready for pilot testing,” says Saiprasad.
Early in 2021, three hospitals in Mumbai and Pune began using the device on patients requiring skin grafting. However, the results can be confirmed only after nine months, once the patient has completed their recovery phase.
In September 2021, the skin spray won first place at the Abdul Kalam International Innovation Conclave and received great recognition.
Through his startup Pacify Medical Technologies, Mumbai, Saiprasad hopes to commercialise the skin spray gun within a year.
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