With a rise in cases of burn injuries and reconstruction surgeries involving skin, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will soon establish North India’s first government-run skin bank facility, senior AIIMS officials confirmed. An AIIMS official said the country’s premier health facility is also developing “artificial skin” in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, to bridge the gap in demand and supply of skin donation.
Dr Rajesh Malhotra, chief, Jai Prakash Narayan Apex (JPNA) Trauma Centre at AIIMS, said, “We will soon be launching North India’s first skin bank facility. The bank will be in close co-ordination with the institute’s bone bank facility. We are in the process of procuring medical equipment. We have also sought regulatory clearances from the Delhi government. In all probability, the skin bank should start early next year.”
Dr Maneesh Singhal, Head, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Burns Surgery at AIIMS, said the facility will accept cadaver donations from brain dead persons. He added that the facility will use technology to preserve donated skin for a period of 4-5 years. Just like other organs, doctors harvest skin within six hours of death. It is usually taken from the legs, thighs and back. Only the uppermost layer of skin is harvested, the doctor added. “The stored skin can be used for patients who have deep burns, chemical burns, electrical burns and radiation burns,” the specialist said.
“We will accept cadaver donations. We plan to use glycerol, which has anti-bacterial properties, to preserve frozen skin. Cadaver skin will be stored in sub-zero temperatures at the bank. Glycerol will keep the donated skin free of infection…,” Dr Singhal said. As of now, the demand for skin for reconstruction surgeries related to congenital, trauma, cancer and burn injuries is as high as 150 per cent at AIIMS, officials said.
Sajfdarjung Hospital — which has the country’s largest burn unit — does not have a skin bank. Meanwhile, AIIMS is working with IIT-Delhi to develop “affordable artificial skin” for reconstruction surgeries. “We will be involved in the final phase of the project. After that, we will start using artificial skin.
The skin bank cannot bridge the gap between the required demand (and supply) as awareness and willingness to donate skin is a bottleneck. The only way forward is to develop artificial skin,” Dr Singhal added. Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru, which has the country’s second largest burn unit, started a skin bank facility in June this year.