How Reading scientists used a potato to treat burns

The University of Reading was Europe’s leading center for research into genetically modified crops at the turn of the millennium, when its scientists turned their attention to the healing properties of the potato.

By combining the vegetable with pineapple tissue, research began to develop a paste that could remove dead skin from severe burns.

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This would make it possible to perform skin grafts and accelerate the healing process.

A greenhouse at the University of Reading where pineapples were grown. Credit: BBC Archives

“It’s an interesting concept that you can produce these enzymes in a genetically modified organism and that there is a history of using these enzymes to help people who have stubborn wounds that need treatment,” said said Dr Peter Shakespeare of the specialist burns unit in Salisbury. District Hospital, interviewed by the BBC in 2000.

“Not so much burns, but more ulcers and bedsores.”

Reading Chronicle: Dr Peter Shakespeare from the specialist burns unit at Salisbury District Hospital, interviewed by the BBC in 2000. Credit: BBC ArchiveDr Peter Shakespeare from the specialist burns unit at Salisbury District Hospital, interviewed by the BBC in 2000. Credit: BBC Archive

The interview footage, which can be viewed on BBC Rewind, is one of more than 30,000 archival videos released by the BBC dating back to the 1940s.

Researchers took genes from pineapple tissue that can remove dead tissue from burnt areas and used them to genetically modify potatoes.

Reading Chronicle: A paste used to treat skin burns.  Credit: BBC ArchivesA paste used to treat skin burns. Credit: BBC Archives

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As part of its centenary celebrations, the BBC has launched ‘BBC Rewind’ across the UK.

This is the largest release of digital archive content in BBC history, categorized by nations and regions of the UK and packed with many emotional and powerful stories, many of which have not been seen since. their original broadcast.

Reading Chronicle: A researcher at the University of Reading.  Credit: BBC ArchivesResearcher at the University of Reading. Credit: BBC Archives

“As we celebrate 100 years of the BBC, we are opening up our unique and hugely valuable archive, an important part of the nation’s collective memory,” said BBC 100 editor James Stirling.

“By breathing new life into stories that have lain dormant for years, audiences will be able to discover recordings that can help us all learn more about who we are and where we come from.”

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