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Skin Bank Initiatives

Helping Burns Victims in Paraguay

In August 2004, a devastating fire in a supermarket in Asuncion, Paraguay, killed 400 people and injured another 600, leaving the country’s emergency services unable to cope with the number of high degree burns victims.

Professor Harshad Navsaria

Skin Bank Initiatives
Skin Bank Initiatives
"This tragedy is unique in my career"

Reader in Cell and Tissue Engineering in the Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, has spent the past 20years at the School of Medicine, developing new techniques for growing skin cells from the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

After the fire in Asuncion the British Ambassador to Paraguay contacted

Professor Navsaria

Asking him to provide expertise and guidance to help set upa skin bank for the country.

Professor Navsaria

Agreed and set up a team to accompany him, including Dr Simon Myers, a consultant Burn Surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the director of the Steven Kirby Skin Bank. Together they gave a number of seminars to healthcare professionals in Paraguay on burns treatment, the technology behind the use of donor skin and cultivated skin transplants, tissue engineered skin for burn care and a lecture on stem cell biology.

They also met Paraguay’s Minister for Health who understood the need to set up a skin bank in Paraguay and offered his full support.

This means that Paraguayans can now donate skin in the same way as you would donate any organ in the event of your  death, which can be preserved and used to treat someone with extensive burns.

A representative from Lloyds Bank showed interest in helping with the finances needed to provide all of the equipment necessary to set up the skin bank.

Whilst the skin bank was too late for the victims of the fire, it will be essential for people suffering from high degree burns in the future.

Professor Navsaria

said the tragedy was unique in his career. "I am used to working in a lab and cultivating skin for burn victims but I am usually quite removed from the emotional trauma that victims and families go through," he said.

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