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Ohio tissue bank is now part of the nation's response to mass casualty burn injuries

medical person looks at a computer
Irwan Iwe

In the wake of disasters and emergencies, there's frequently a need for blood donations. There are lots of blood banks across the country that work together to meet those needs. Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with a Southwest Ohio tissue center on an inventory of donor skin to immediately treat injuries from mass casualty emergencies involving burns.

Dayton-based Community Blood Center/Community Tissue Services (CBC/CTS) is the larger of two agencies working with HHS on the nationwide skin donation inventory.

Often people who need skin grafts don't have enough of their own skin and must rely on skin donated by a person upon their death. That's known as a skin allograft.

Director of Business Development for CTS Paul Lehner says HHS has been working on the idea of a national inventory for years and it's finally coming to fruition with this partnership.

"The problem is allograft skin needs to be stored at negative 80 degrees Celsius after it's been processed, and it can be stored for up to five years. But it needs to be managed and rotated to prevent the gift that we've been given in the allograft tissue from expiring," Lehner explains.

Enter the partnership. It's supported by Project BioShield funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of HHS' Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.

CTS will work with BARDA to create and maintain an inventory of skin allografts that are available in the event of a mass casualty emergency involving burns from chemicals, nuclear or radiological incidents or bombs.

"Our agreement with HHS allows us to set a defined amount of skin that will be stored at locations across the United States. Then we will rotate that inventory in and out, again, to ensure that none of this precious gift that we've been given has the chance to expire and (to) make sure that it is fully utilized and is available at a moment's notice," says Lehner.

As far as he knows, nothing like this has ever existed in the U.S.

CTS is one of the largest tissue banks in the country. It distributed 39,000 skin allografts for burns in the last 12 months, he notes.

"This year we are set for the first time ever to distribute 1 million allografts directly," he points out. "That's our organization treating over 1 million life saving and enhancing grafts — that's several thousand grafts that are sent out daily."

CTS intends to work with one of its partner organizations, New Jersey-based MTF Biologics to build the national preparedness inventory.

You can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.