An unexpected source—pig skin—could be the key to treating burn victims, and may hold the key to addressing the shortage of transplantable organs.

In a trial at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), burn specialists were the world’s first to use live-cell, genetically engineered pig skin to temporarily close a burn wound in a human patient.

The pig tissue, xenoskin, was transplanted with a piece of human skin to a human burn, then observed over several days. After five days, the pig tissue was indistinguishable from the human skin, signaling acceptance.

The wound was eventually treated with the patient’s own thigh graft, though the ultimate aim is to broaden uses for the pig skin technique. “The goal is to replace skin with xenoskin that’s like it enough that it doesn’t get rejected,” says Jeremy Goverman, MD, of the MGH Sumner Redstone Burn Service. “Down the line we hope to ultimately create something that’s not temporary.”

In addition to advancing burn care with readily graftable skin, the development could bring significant benefits to the more than 100,000 patients currently awaiting the transplant of hearts, lungs, kidneys, and livers—and the providers working around the clock to find them suitable matches.

“The ultimate holy grail is the end to the world’s organ shortage,” notes Dr. Goverman. “This has come at a time when genetic editing is really hot and what we could do in years, we can do in weeks.”

Read more in The Boston Herald.

Topics: Patient Experience, Innovation, Academic Medical Centers

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