In Brazil, Doctors are trying a natural approach to treat burn victims. They are using fish skins.
Brazillian doctors are taking an experimental approach to treat burns: using tilapia skin. Traditionally, burns are treated using pig and human tissue, which transfer collagen, a healing protein, to the victims' skin. In Fortaleza, Brazil, however, those issues weren't readily available.
That shortage led researchers at the José Frota Institute to turn to tilapia as an alternative treatment for people in the community who suffered from burns. Here's the story of how the team discovered this unconventional new approach.
Second- and third-degree burns are painful, and occasionally deadly depending on how widespread they are on the body. Using tissue can often help speed up the healing process. But at the José Frota Institute, doctors were only able to use burn creams and gauze that had to be changed out frequently, a painful process.
So the team looked for other options, including sterilized tilapia skin. When they analyzed the tilapia's skin, they found something unexpected.
“We got a great surprise when we saw that the number of collagen proteins, types 1 and 3, which are very important for scarring, exist in large quantities in tilapia skin, even more than in human skin and other skins,” Dr. Edmar Maciel, a burn specialist at the institute told Stat News.
Tilapia is a common fish found in Brazil's rivers and fish farms, which makes the skin readily accessible for the experimental treatment.