Burn treatment is costly in Pakistan, especially for injuries that can’t heal naturally. This is because the skin needs to be imported from abroad, costing $900 per square inch. This is unaffordable for the majority of people coming to burn centers for treatment, including acid attack victims.
To make the treatment for acid attack victims more affordable, Jinnah Burn and Reconstructive Surgery Center is developing a new, cost-effective artificial skin. This development can change the lives of hundreds of Pakistani women who become victims of acid attacks every year.
Just $5 Per Square Inch
According to assistant professor Dr. Rauf Ahmed, his breakthrough came about by substituting trypsin, an enzyme used for cultivation of artificial skin, with sodium chloride, which is cheaper and easily available. He says that this technique will cost just $5 per square inch.
This innovative artificial skin was first tested on animals that were monitored for six months. In October 2018, the first human trials began and were scheduled to finish this summer.
The burn unit is testing the artificial skin on eight women, six of whom are acid attack victims, and five men. The rest of the patients are being treated for burns sustained during a fire. The patients were observed for bacterial contamination, and according to Ahmed, there has been no such occurrence.
Sourcing Skin Grafts
Human skin is mainly sourced in two ways, i.e. from another area of the patient’s body or from a cadaver, which is not easily available and way too expensive. Also, skin grafts cannot be stored easily for long periods.
If the method mentioned above of artificial skin development succeeds, it can be a significant breakthrough in burn-related surgeries. The treatment for burns will be easier, cheaper, and accessible.
The recipients of artificial skin at Jinnah Hospital have not contracted any infections or contamination from the substitute skin. The recovery time was eight to ten days after implantation.
The unit has obtained approval for the development of artificial skin for clinical use from the Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology in Lahore.
Similar Development in Islamabad
Another experiment in the same realm is being conducted in Islamabad, which involves the development of a nanoparticle regenerating and healing the burnt skin. The team has passed the clinical tests and now looking for investors.
Moreover, the US and India are also using a type of artificial skin, and similar technology is being devised at the India Institute of Technology Hyderabad.