How your extra skin can save lives

Shelly says: Your post about donating hair to Locks of Love reminded me of this article about donating extra skin. Can this be for real?

The Left Brain responds:

It’s true. Researchers have figured out a way to “recycle” excess skin from weight loss operations into usable grafts to help with a number surgical procedures. Since the supply of skin from recently deceased donors isn’t enough to fill the surgical demand, the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, the nations largest tissue bank, is now working with almost 70 surgeons around the country on a new living skin donation program.

How does living skin donation work?

When you’re having a tummy tuck or any other procedure that involves skin removal, you can chose to donate the skin for surgical use. After the skin is removed from your body, it’s prepared for its new home. First it must be stripped of fat; even though you may have lot of weight your skin can still contain excess fat. Then, other cells must be removed to prevent the recipient from rejecting the new tissue, as frequently occurs in organ transplants. The remaining slabs of skin are known as a collagen matrix.

These slabs are then cut and shaped into pieces that can be used in surgical procedures. The final pieces are packaged, frozen, and stored for distribution.

Once the harvested skin reaches the hospital, it is implanted in its new body so the collagen matrix can act as a scaffolding that the patients’ bodies use to regrow skin of their own.

What is living skin used for?

Living skin donations can be used for a variety of procedures, like reconstructing breasts after mastectomy, repairing abdominal walls from hernias, building bladder slings to control incontinence, and reshaping facial features damaged by cancer.

Researchers are still learning how to use living skin in place of cadaver skin. Cadaver skin is better for treating burn victims because it’s easier to shave off thin sheets of skin when it’s still attached to the body. Living skin requires new tools and new procedures that are still being developed.

So if you’re going ahead with that tummy tuck because you’re not satisfied with the weight loss from that new diet pill Alli, you might want to consider living skin donation.