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Tshwane University of Technology

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The Tshwane University of Technology’s Centre for Tissue
Engineering launched SA’s first skin banking programme
at the CSIR Convention Centre. The aim of the programme
is to alleviate the dire need for skin to treat burn victims.
CTE spokesperson, Sandra Venter, said every year, especially during winter, shack fires escalate together with the danger of them causing deaths. 

“These deaths occur, not only because of the severity of the burns patients suffer, but because there are no effective, affordable synthetic treatment options available to patients in state hospitals,” she said.

Dr. Nikki Allorto, President of the South African Burn Society and founder of the Burn Care Trust, was keynote speaker at the launch. She mentioned that the general neglect of burn patients in South Africa was a challenge that strongly resonated with her and that it played an important role in the direction her career developed.

“I am unable to rest until I have persevered to uplift that area of medicine. No matter how difficult it gets, the situation will only become worse if we don’t try, and we cannot rest easy with that knowledge. How can I let it be when I know I can make a significant impact in others’ lives? If something touches you… don’t talk about fixing it, do it,” she said.

Dr Allorto appealed to the public to become tissue donors. “Cadaver skin is an essential component in the success of the skin bank. Donating your tissue can save up to 60 lives,” she said.


Background information

How did the CTE arrive at launching a skin banking programme:

Although there are a number of transplant centres as well as eye and tissue banks around South Africa, there has never been a long term successful skin banking program. Over the past 5 years, the CTE has consistently been approached by transplant coordinators and burn units around the country to see if there is a way in which human skin can be made available for the treatment of burn victims.

The best solution to this problem is cadaveric human skin. Only a few strips from the very top layer of skin can be procured from organ and tissue donors and then be used very effectively on burn victims.

The preferred cryo-preservation method to store skin for later use is extremely expensive – especially in it start-up phase. For this reason the CTE has chosen to make use of glycerol preservation: After the actual retrieval of the skin, it goes through a few steps in the laboratory and then into the glycerol which can preserve it for up to two years.

The treatment of burns with cadaveric skin has a number of advantages for the recipient:
The treatment process is far less traumatic and painful than treatment with synthetic dressings, less scaring occurs and the cost saving is massive. Cadaveric skin will give people hope – a chance to recover – without it, many more will suffer an agonising death due to infection and loss of moisture.

One of the biggest challenges in providing skin in adequate quantities, is the shortage of organ and tissue donors. Every person in South Africa can make a difference, and it is our appeal to the public to make a decision in favour of donation after their own death.
Apart from organs and skin, one can also donate corneas, bone and heart valves.

To register as organ and tissue donors go to or or call the toll free number at: 0800 22 66 11.

For further information on the CTE, please contact Sandra Venter on: 082 325 3448 or

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter on tel: 012 382 5352 or send an email to