Scientists Discovered a Way to Treat Burns Using Fish Skin

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: a team of Brazilian scientists has figured out how to treat burns using fish skin. This is absolutely insane, and more than a little creepy and also… who in the world even comes up with an idea like that?!?

Ok, in all seriousness, it’s actually a really cool invention!

Researchers at the Federal University of Cearà in Brazil came up with this innovation. They use tilapia skin, which is high in collagen (a healing protein) and moisture. It reportedly speeds up healing and reduces the need for pain medication.

In modern medicine, burns are often treated with grafts of human or pig skin, both of which transfer collagen to burn victims’ healing skin. The alternative is to use burn creams and gauze strips that have to be changed out frequently, which involves a lot of pain for victims.

But in Brazil, it’s not easy to get human or pig skin for grafts. Thus, the foray into fish skin. Fish skin works similarly to other tissues — and it may even be MORE effective.

“We got a great surprise when we saw that the amount 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,” said Dr. Edmar Maciel, a burn specialist at the José Frota Institute.

Even better, tilapia is a cheap, abundant fish. It costs 75% less than the burn cream used in Brazil. While it’s still under study and has yet to catch on mainstream, it has been used experimentally in the US on bears.

And yes, it does look really bizarre. But the tilapia skins are sterilized first, so it’s totally safe.

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