Published on May 9, 2012 at 6:17 AM
By Dr Ananya Mandal
A great grandmother is the first person in Britain to have a wound healed using skin from dead donors.
Until the transplant, Jessie Townley, 92, had suffered from painful ulcers on her legs for 20 years. But the hour-long procedure was a success and has given her a “new lease of life”.
The operation at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester involved transplanting skin cells from dead donors – known as decellularised dermis. Just 10 weeks later the troublesome sores were healed and fresh skin was revealed.
She said, “I feel so grateful. I needed dressings twice a week and that meant trips to hospital. I’ve been careful not to knock my leg as that can make things worse and it has stopped me doing things. When they asked me to try this new treatment I thought it might not work for me but it could help younger folk.”
Mrs Townley's wound was cleaned and a high pressure water spray was used to remove the damaged tissue. The donor skin - supplied in a 5cm x 5cm patch and cut to fit the outline of the ulcer - was applied to the area and it was held in place by surgical glue. On the day of the procedure her leg ulcer measured 4.1 x 3cm and it had completely healed just 10 weeks after the operation, leaving healthy new skin in its place.
Lead trial scientist Ardeshir Bayat said, “It is thought the decellularised dermis attracts the patient’s healing cells to the wound thereby producing the right healing environment for wound healing.” “Wythenshawe is the only trust in the UK that has been approved to trial this new product and we are delighted not only with Mrs Townley's results, but also with the preliminary finding of other patients on the study,” he said.
Mrs Townley, a retired machinist, is one of 20 patients taking part in a clinical trial at the hospital. NHS chiefs hope it could transform the lives of thousands of others - not only ulcer patients, but also burns victims and people with severe bedsores. It is estimated that one in a hundred people develop ulcers at some point - costing the NHS around £1bn a year.