In a major step towards availability of skin for reconstruction surgeries, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will soon start North India’s first government-run skin bank facility, reported The Indian Express quoting senior AIIMS officials. As per the reports, the Institute accounts the demand for skin for reconstruction surgeries related to congenital, trauma, cancer and burn injuries as high as 150 per cent. With this skin bank, the institute will store skin received through cadaver donations which will be available for the surgeries. However, taking note of the gap between demand and supply of skin donation the Institute is working with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi to develop “artificial skin”. According to Dr Rajesh Malhotra, chief, Jai Prakash Narayan Apex (JPNA) Trauma Centre at AIIMS, the Institute has sought regulatory clearances from the Delhi government and is in process of procuring medical equipment for the bank. To be launched in close coordination with the institute’s bone bank facility, the skin bank is expected to start in the early months of 2018, he said.
Giving information about the working of the skin bank, Dr Maneesh Singhal, Head, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Burns Surgery at AIIMS told The Indian Express that they will accept cadaver donations from brain dead persons. Like other organ donation, experts harvest skin within six hours of death, usually from the legs, thighs and back, said the doctor adding that only the uppermost layer of skin is harvested in the process. Once the skin is harvested, the doctor said that they are planning to use glycerol to preserve it. According to Dr Singhal, Glycerol with its anti-bacterial properties will keep the donated skin free of infection. With the planned technology, he said that they will preserve donated skin for a period of 4-5 years. Despite having country’s largest burn unit, the Safdarjung Hospital does not have a skin bank.
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Besides skin bank, the Institute is also working on developing “affordable artificial skin” for reconstruction surgeries. Talking about the project, Dr Singhal said there is lack of awareness and willingness to donate skin. Therefore, the artificial skin will help in surgeries. The experts will be involved in the final phase to develop artificial skin and after that, they will start using it in surgeries, Dr Singhal added.