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U-M Trauma Burn Center supplies artificial skin to treat R.I. burn survivors

The tragic Rhode Island nightclub fire reached into the heart of the Midwest when an emergency call for medical supplies came to the U-M Trauma Burn Center.

Doctors in the East were seeking additional sources for TransCyte, a bioengineered, artificial product that serves as temporary skin. Developed in 1997, TransCyte protects burned tissue, reduces pain by covering the nerve endings, decreases fluid loss and simulates normal skin.
TransCyte is derived from human tissue and should be used as soon as possible after the original burn.

Packed in dry ice and shipped via commercial flight, 10 cassettes of TransCyte were sent to the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston where many of the burn victims were transferred. According to Tom Taddonio, director of the Trauma Burn Resource Center, U-M Health System has one of the largest supplies of TransCyte in the region. The center gave approximately half of its stockenough to create about 20 5-by-7-inch skin grafts.

TransCyte is derived from human tissue and should be used as soon as possible after the original burn. The product is shipped on dry ice, stored at 20 to 70 degrees below zero Celsius, and thawed before placement on the patient.

TransCyte is saturated with human cells that allow the burned tissue underneath to get hormonal nutrients, which in turn helps promote skin growth, says Dr. Paul Taheri, division chief of Trauma Burn and Emergency Surgery. It provides a barrier to the outside environment that may prevent infection and enables the wound to begin the healing process. TransCyte also eliminates the necessity of numerous painful dressing changes.

On Feb. 20, 97 people died when a pyrotechnic show during a Great White concert caused a nightclub to erupt in flames. About 200 others were injured while escaping the West Warwick, R.I., club.

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