Viet Nam News
HCM CITY —For nearly 30 years, researchers at the Faculty of Tissue, Embryo and Genetics under Phạm Ngọc Thạch Medical University have been making use of amniotic membrane, which is commonly treated as medical waste and discarded. Under their hands, it has been processed to heal wounds and corneal damage instead.
Trần Công Toại, the faculty’s dean, told Thanh Niên (Young people) newspaper that the research on transplant materials was conceived in 1989, starting with the application of freeze-dried amniotic membrane into skin grafts for people who suffered serious burns or injuries.
Researchers used amniotic membranes of healthy pregnant women to create biological membranes which then would be applied onto burnt patients using the same technique as a skin graft. Those amniotic membranes had to meet high standards set by the American Association of Tissue Banks.
In 2002, they conducted the project of cell transplant onto amniotic membranes and its therapeutic application. In 2006, the research on keratinocyte cell culture was first implemented. Therein, a small piece of skin from a burnt person was separated to take its stem cell, which would be cultured in three weeks to increase its size up to 25 times. The stem cell was then embedded into an amniotic membrane and implanted on a burnt person’s skin.
“In the 90s, we processed about 10,000 pieces of amniotic membrane, size 10x20cm, a year,” said Toại.
The cost to culture stem cells on a piece of amniotic membrane size 10x10cm was VNĐ1.5 million (US$66). Due to the financial shortage, researchers could not mass produce the stem cells and had to prioritise burnt people with urgent demands for skin graft, according to Toại.
Besides practising stem cells culturing, they do research on the use of coral as human bone replacement with coral samples taken from Bình Thuận Province and Phú Quốc Island with the support of Việt Nam Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang City.
“Corals are washed, remodeled, implanted with stem cells and cultured in a month. Corals then will gradually turn into bones after a certain period of time. The application of corals is found in several fields including the dental implant or eyeball replacement,” Toại added.
Ngô Văn Hồng, head of Department of Ophthalmology under Chợ Rẫy Hospital, said that the hospital doctors only used biological membranes made by the faculty for their patients.
Nguyễn Minh Khải, director of HCM City Hospital of Ophthalmology, also highly appreciated the impacts of those products on patients, saying most of their patients had eyeball surgeries using the faculty’s products.
However, researchers are pondering how to approach a wider range of patients and hospitals.
“As we specialise in researching and teaching, it is impossible for us to mass produce skeleton replacements and biological membranes. This is the common weakness among Vietnamese universities,” Toại said.
Therefore, the faculty’s researchers have proposed a plan to build a research centre on products’ clinical applications and technological transfer to the university so that more patients can benefit from these medical innovations. – VNS