Funding holds back skin cloning in SA

2012-06-29 12:15

Cape Town - Lack of funding is preventing medical researchers and doctors from performing skin cloning procedures for burn victims in South Africa.

Earlier this month the first grafting procedure involving cloned skin in Africa was performed on 3-year-old Isabella "Pippie" Kruger.

The skin was cultivated at the Genzyme laboratory in Boston, US, using small patches of skin removed from Pippie's groin.

The cloning procedure, and having the skin flown to Boston and back to South Africa, cost more than R700 000.

Expensive equipment

The doctor who performed Pippie’s operation, Ridwan Mia, said the cost of specialised equipment and chemicals prevent skin cloning in South Africa.

“Laboratories require expensive electronics which maintain the temperatures required,” he told News24.

A local medical expert says that given the funding, South Africa has the expertise to be able to perform the cloning procedures, and dramatically reduce costs for patients.

Dr Lester Davids, a molecular cell biologist in the Redox Laboratory at the University of Cape Town Medical School, works closely with the Red Cross Children's Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital.

According to Davids, the university and hospitals have the expertise to perform the same procedure, but lack funding.

"Genzyme has the capacity to employ 100 technicians, where I only have one," he told News24.

Political will

Mia says to perform skin cloning locally will require “buy-in” from the state or private sector. He says that with adequate political will the procedure could become a reality “overnight”.

“I would love to be part of something like this,” Mia said.

Davids is currently exploring the possibility of a funding partnership with Genzyme.

“People with 80% third-degree burns rarely survive, but adequate funding could make a difference in local fire disasters like shack fires,” said Davids.

Currently, the Redox lab is the only South African laboratory that specialises in cloning of primary human skin cells.

In the meantime, his laboratory is working on a ‘co-culture’ system.

Here the focus is not only on healing the wound with cloned cells, but through the addition of pigment-producing cells, attempts to return the skin to its natural colour.

  • robin.stobbs.9 - 2012-06-29 12:30

    And meanwhile the government spends R2bn on a toy for Zuma while the country burns!

      john.loveland.9 - 2012-06-29 13:08

      Its amazing as to what is seen as important and a priority in this country. Most certainly the well being and welfare of the man in the street doesn't rank too high, except on voting day. But I'm sure the government officials will be celebrating with a big expensive party at the conclusion of the ANC's window dressing session.

      dennis.vermaak.5 - 2012-06-29 14:08

      So when the next election comes around, you know what to do ne' !!!

      susan.paul.330 - 2012-06-29 15:45

      Our doctors have the most amazing second generation wound dressings in the world, yet they shy away from these products, now they are demanding money for skin cloning, I speak of facts and government is supposed to fit the bill for skin cloning, let's be realistic..

  • marcelle.joubertdurandt - 2012-06-29 12:31

    Mmmmmm, we have some of the most brilliant medical minds in this country - But with no funding, their hands are tied........ Perhaps our esteemed government could put a hold on the purchase of the R2bn aircraft for Jacob Zuma & rather think of funding this issue, which, to me, is far more beneficial for THE PEOPLE, than a 'jet" for him & his cronies ... Fly SAA + help save burn victims, Dammit!

      sedick.gydien - 2012-06-29 15:00

      I think that we as South Africans are being extremely selfish. What must Zuma do? He has 4+ wives, untold number of children, 4+ sets of Parent-in-laws, who know how many sister/brother-in-laws....How is he suppose to transport all of them on the family jollies without a plane......

  • Dyecha - 2012-06-29 12:38


  • BulletProof. - 2012-06-29 12:39

    Solution tell ZOOOMA to don't buy the 2 Billion plane.

  • gaby.hide.3 - 2012-06-29 12:51

    I would love to support this.

      mzokhona.m - 2012-06-29 19:20

      Funding limitation ? Kodwa uZuma uyakwazi ukuthi athenge ibhanoyi la R2bn elilayisha abantu abawu-300 khona ezolayisha izingane zakhe kanye nabafazi laba akabashada nyanga zonke,

  • DuToitCoetzee - 2012-06-29 13:04

    I have R400 that i will donate. Where can I do it. It will be my part of crooking SARS with because of gov.'s plan to spend R 2b on a plane. I will write it off as a donation or something.

  • patson.nedzamba - 2012-06-29 13:17

    Lack of funding my foot! We are about to spend R2bn on Zuma's comfort. Billions are unaccounted for in the Education Department. Informed people can elongate the list. All we need is an Administration with people closer to heart. Zuma's administration is zooming us to disaster.

      nico.brits.581 - 2012-07-03 17:50

      Don't forget the R400million party in Bloem not to long ago.

  • kimsaiyanprincess.murison - 2012-06-29 13:42

    - What if we used the R2b about to be spent on a new plane for Zuma?

  • Gregory Jurgens - 2012-06-29 13:57

    It's obvious the presidents ego comes before the well being of the citizens.

  • helmut.smrz - 2012-06-29 14:06

    Zuma comes first. He must fly to china do get a brain implant

      bakers.dozen.14 - 2012-06-29 14:30

      Hi hear that they will pay good money for his old brain as it is totally unused

  • fanie.oosthuizen - 2012-06-29 14:23

    Dit is vreeslik dat 'n paar mense bevoordeel word terwyl die massa, in wie se diens hul is, net mooi niks kry nie. Ons het die kennis, maar die brein wat die administrasie moet behartig, is besoedel deur idees van selfveryking. Totdat hier transformasie idees nie geskrap word nie en sekere groepe net nie kan wegbeweeg van die geskiedenis wat so swaar op hul rugte druk nie, sal ons altyd met 'n situasie sit soos nou. En dat die massas nogsteeds vir die lot stem wat 'n B777 wil aankoop. As hul werklik in diens van die gemeenskap staan sal 'n fiets ook genoeg wees!

  • BigChiefPlumbPudding - 2012-06-29 14:42

    Well they do need more jets. It seems part of the SA presidency post comes with a new jet. Just saw a video of Mugabe's palace. Such opulence while his people starve. What is it with African leaders and their blind followers?

  • enlightened.bowman - 2012-06-29 15:40

    Listen now all you white supremacist, colonialist racists. How dare you? This is Africa. Africa is different. Black South Africans priorities are different from those of white South Africans but are equally respectable. White South africans have this idea about priorities, that education, health care and honest governance are part of the key to promote the welfare of all South Africans (at least those that contribute) .White South Africans also have this unfounded idea that a broad tax base is essential to cover the cost of the governments policies and bring about the above.. Black South Africans appear to have the idea that funds are there. That's that. Education and health care MUST be provided, It is a human right and they want to see their leaders living as lavishly as possible as this seems to reflect the status of the whole nation, if they have to go to bed hungry and cold then so be it. Both views are perfectly valid and as a majority of our citizens choose it, democracy dictates black South Africans Are right.

  • dineo.pamela.masipa - 2012-07-04 15:10

    If the dumb government would stop splashing money on their "Empty promise maker" president and themselves, this would not be the issue, but then again, SA has a "Issues of the stomach Government.

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