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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Using Fish Skin to Heal Human Wounds

Published November 7, 2013 4:23 PM by Chuck Holt

I live in South Florida very near to the Gulf of Mexico, but I’m not exactly an avid fisherman -- although most everyone I know has a good fish story to tell.

And while what I’m about to say may sound like another one of those, it is not:

There’s a new treatment option for the millions of people out there suffering from chronic wounds -- namely, fish-skin technology.

The manufacturer, Kerecis Limited, announced Nov. 7 it had received 510(k) clearance from the FDA to market the proprietary fish-skin, Omega3, tissue-regeneration technology for the treatment of chronic wounds in the U.S. 

Fish skin, it seems, comprises much of the same material as human skin, with the addition of Omega3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The new curative products are intact, decellularized fish skin sheets, which have had all cells and antigenic materials removed. The products are made in Iceland from fish harvested in the North Atlantic. 

According to the manufacturer, when the product is inserted into or onto damaged human tissue, protease activity is modulated and the fish skin is vascularized and populated by the patient's own cells, ultimately converted into living tissue. Marketed under the name MariGen Omega3, the FDA says it is indicated for the management of chronic wounds, including diabetic, vascular and other hard-to-heal wounds.

Each year about six million Americans alone suffer from problem wounds caused by diabetes, circulatory problems and other conditions, according to the FDA, with 1.1-1.8 million new cases added each year, and so one can only begin to imagine the infections, amputations and deaths chronic wounds are causing on a global scale.

"Despite a clear need, few treatments are consistently effective in accelerating wound closure in people with chronic wounds," says Gudmundur Fertram Sigurjonsson, CEO, president and chairman of Kerecis Limited. "The FDA approval represents an important milestone for Kerecis, as we now have an approved product in the largest market for biological products worldwide."

Hopefully, the fish-skin technology will be a milestone for many more as well, who will finally be able to tell the story about their chronic wound that got away. 

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