Skin Substitutes for Burn Victims- Tilapia Skin & Spray-on-Skin

Skin is the largest organ in the human body. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 180,000 deaths every year are caused by burns. The vast majority of these burn-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, as higher-income countries have made considerable progress in terms of burn prevention and treatment. Here we have reviewed two natural skin substitute with promising potential:


Spray-on-skin developed by Dr. Jörg C. Gerlach is considered to be the world’s first use of the patient’s own stem cells to heal the skin directly. In the scientific journal, Burns, the researchers further explain how spraying the stem cells help regrow the skin across the burn by creating thousands of “tiny regenerative islands”, rather than forcing the wound to heal slowly from the edge to the center.

In 2014, Dr. Gerlach sold the technology to RenovaCare, a biotechnology firm who have created a SkinGun™ to deploy the patient’s stem cells without damaging them while spraying. The liquid suspension with the patient’s stem cells is called CellMist™. It can be sprayed directly on to the burn area and allows the skin to heal with no scarring and minimal pigment discoloration.

SkinGun™ by RenovaCare ( Image source – )

Currently, there is research underway to make the treatment feasible for third-degree burns.

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Tilapia Skin

We first heard about the revolutionary tilapia skin when it was used to treat burn victims in a hospital in northeastern Brazil. It was offered as an experimental alternative to standard medications as a part of clinical research. The initial study of tilapia skin was done by researchers at the Federal University of Ceará. They found large quantities of type 1 and type 3 collagen protein that can help reduce scarring, high-moisture content important to the healing process, and the skin tension to be even higher than the human skin. (PubMed)

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Due to intense scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration, it might take a while before it is used as an acceptable treatment option in US hospitals. Human skin, pigskin, and other alternatives are considered a viable alternative. In December 2017, two bears and a cougar injured in the Thomas Fire in California were treated with tilapia skin. You can read more about it at National Geographic.

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