Mountain lion burns treated with tilapia skin


Fish skins are in the news again as they treat animals burned in the California wildfires.

The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis is treating dogs, cats, bears and mountain lions with tilapia skins that releave pain and help the burns heal more quickly. says the doctors stitched the skins onto burned paws and wrapped them in rice paper and corn husks, which would be harmless if eaten by the animals. In some cases, new skin appeared in just five days instead of the usual weeks. The healing ingredient in the fish skins is collagen.

“They’ve been developing collagen from cod and pollock skins in Dutch Harbor for decades for use in the beauty and makeup industry in Japan.”

Keith Singleton is president of Alaskan Leader Seafood’s value added division.

 Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It supports and strengthens everything from our skin and bones to our toenails.  Natural collagen production starts to decline by about 1.5 percent each year starting in your mid-20’s and is not replenished.

Collagen is routinely extracted in the livestock industry and many countries also use fish. It has hundreds of applications, such as gels.

Cindy Bower is a former USDA food researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

“It’s put in beverages to thicken it, clarifier for juices and if you don’t want the gel, you can roll it out into films. When you test these films against the bovine films or pig skin films, there is decreased water vapor permeability.  These fish skins are a better barrier to water. So there are applications for coating foods.”

Bower says fish skins also open up a much wider market.

“They’re fish – not beef or pork. So it satisfies kosher and halal dietary restrictions.”

Research shows marine collagen is the best because it’s so rich in essential amino acids.

Bower says collagen extraction is a fairly easy process and could be done throughout Alaska – or the skins could be shipped elsewhere.

“Dry them, get rid of the water weight, they’re just as good.”

Experts peg the value of the marine collagen nutraceutical, cosmetic and medical market at $620 million in 2018 and $897.5 million by 2023 at an annual growth rate of 7.7 percent.