Pretoria – South Africa has entered a new era of skin and bone regeneration with the launch of the country's first skin banking programme on Thursday afternoon.
The programme's main focus is to treat burn victims with the help of skin donors.
While being treated with the skin of a cadaver might seem disturbing to some, the process is used to stimulate a person's own cells to heal. Using human skin to heal burns is less traumatic and painful than synthetic dressings, there is less scarring and it is cheaper.
According to Cleo Ndhlovu, general manager at the Centre for Tissue Engineering (CTE), the skin from the cadaver falls off after a few days.
In 2002, the then Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology) and Bone SA signed an agreement to establish the CTE at the Faculty of Health Sciences.
According to CTE, many people die from burn wounds caused by veld fires or shack fires, especially during winter.
"The best solution to this problem is cadaveric human skin," Ndhlovu said.
This involves taking a few strips from the top layer of the donor's skin and placing it on burn victims.
Because the preferred method of cryo-preservation - which involves cooling tissues to sub-zero temperatures - is extremely expensive, the CTE decided on glycerol preservation. Once the skin has been harvested it is treated in a laboratory and then placed in glycerol, where it can be kept for up to two years.
People willing to donate organs or tissue can go to www.odf.org.za or www.tissuedonation.org.za or call 0800 22 66 11.