Skin Harvesting: A Prospect Not Skin Deep

Posted on August 25, 2010 in Health and Life

By Shraddha Sankhe:

Doctors from Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are trying to publicize the concept of Skin Donation. Skin donations are made at skin banks, and the tissue is used for burn victims, particularly for those patients who have sustained more than 40 percent burn injuries.

Skin is the largest organ in the body but the least respected. Its presence not only protects and drapes our body; it sustains the entire cosmetic industry. Skin is commonly destroyed in burns. Flame burns can be accidental as in the kitchen with gas cylinders exploding when they leak. Chemical burns are mostly industrial. Only deep burns which destroy both the layers, dermis epidermis, need be treated by a skin graft. Skin grafts are life savers and not cosmetic replacements. They have no role in cosmetology only in restoration or reconstruction as in cancer/burns/gangrene etc.. It is possible to culture skin commercially to-day but the procedure is expensive. Synthetic skin is not a real alternative yet.

Therefore to salvage a human burned extensively, the only alternative is donor skin. This is where skin banks are handy. Skin banking allows scientific removal and proper preservation of skin available on cadavers for future use on burn victims. Skin banks as a concept is still to catch on in India, even though there are a few skin banks in cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata. But in the West, it is practiced rigorously. In fact, there are several cities in the world where the skin of fire force personnel employed in the city is properly preserved in skin banks so that the fire fighters, who are more prone to burns due to the nature of their job, can get an immediate skin grafting using their own preserved skin.

Apart from burns skin grafts are also used to temporarily cover wounds and non-healing wounds.

Skin banking is a service. It is not a product. In New York the five fighters run a skin bank. It is a coordinated effort, by the public for the public. In some good publicity for the organ donation drive, actor Paresh Rawal and his wife Swaroop Sampat have decided to donate their skin.

The couple has signed up with the NBI skin bank and is designated as ambassadors for skin donation awareness. This drive will help the cause of burn victims.

While awareness about eye and kidney donation is on the rise, very few people are even aware of the concept of skin donation. Skin donation is sadly lagging behind, with donors reluctant to part with it.