You might think this new treatment makes patients look like The Lizard from Spiderman, and you wouldn’t be far off. Those aren’t lizard scales though, they’re fish skin, and hopefully this real experiment ends a little better than that fictional one. Doctors in Brazil are running a clinical trial that uses tilapia skin to treat severe burn victims. And things are looking good.
A team of researchers has been working on the technology for over two years in a region of Brazil without a skin bank. Tilapia skin, however, is plentiful. The fish is common in Brazil and fish farms discard the skin entirely after removing it from the meat. Well, that is, until doctors decided to try using it to heal burns.
The sterilized skin is placed on the patient’s burn where it naturally adheres to the wound until completely healed. The average healing time is nine to eleven days, which is two to three days less than with skin grafts. In the traditional skin graft method, the wounds’ dressings need to be changed daily or they start to smell. It’s also excruciatingly painful. Not so with the tilapia. The skin is left until the wound is fully healed, and the outer bandage can be left on the entire time.
The fish skin blocks outside contamination, seals in moisture and contains collagen to prevent loss of protein in the newly growing human skin. It also has properties that sooth and alleviate pain at the sight of the wound. Plus, it’s actually cheaper to use. Sounds like a miracle fix, right?
The trials only started at the end of last year, so it will take some time before this treatment becomes common practice. With the results they are seeing and the abundance of tilapia skin though, it seems like this may be the future of burn treatment.