A team of trauma researchers from the University of Birmingham have been working with the National Institute for Health Research Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre to develop a new dressing which they hope will prevent scarring for patients with burns.
The research team have been awarded a £1.6 million research grant by Wellcome Trust to fund a three-year clinical trial which will be carried out at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston. The success of this three-year funded trial may lead to the expansion of the dressing to treat damage caused to other tissues and the scarring of problematic areas such as the eye, or even after brain surgery.
The dressing has been called a biomembrane dressing and it has been created using a synthetic version of the molecule, Decorin, which naturally occurs in the body within amniotic membrane. The dressing will allow damaged tissue to heal with normal tissue opposed to scar tissue, thus preventing most scarring.
Professor Ann Logan, of the University of Birmingham, specialising in Neurotrauma was able to develop this idea as a result of her work addressing the ways in which it was possible to repair damage to spinal cord and brain tissue. The creation of this dressing was further developed through the assistance of Professor Liam Grover, a Biomaterials expert from the school of Chemical Engineering, who created the membrane dressing.
Professor Logan explained: ‘When the tissues are damaged, it is a race between scarring that quickly closes the wound with a ‘patch’ and regenerative healing that reconstructs more normal tissue – therefore our strategy is to use Decorin to slow down the scarring process. We don’t necessarily want to stop scarring per se, but promote the speed of regenerative healing before the skin scars. It’s about giving skin the time to heal naturally before the scarring takes over’.
The dressing has been considered to be incredibly versatile as it can be freeze-dried and stored and the dressing can be manipulated by surgeons prior to its re-hydration with saline solution. Therefore, it has been suggested that this biomembrane dressing may be utilised by soldiers on the battlefield if the clinical trial is deemed a success.
Professor Grover also expressed how pleased he was to have been able to assist in the development of this biomembrane, stating that, ‘this clinical problem, of slowing down the scarring to allow the skin to heal, was brought to me to see if I could create a robust burns dressing that could deliver drugs like Decorin without falling apart in the challenging wound environment…As materials scientists we design things to be used in everyday life, and I feel very proud that we are going to be able to use this to help people who have been injured.’
Redbrick asked 3rd year Medical student Sunia Naseem her thoughts on this new development. Naseem stated ‘[the biomembrane dressing] seems like a great idea. Clearly the consequences of healing particularly from burns are a balance between the healing process forming scar tissue and reforming healthy tissue’. Naseem said she thought the ‘biomembrane could be life changing for many individuals and its proposed benefits compared to current dressings seem very positive. Testing the biomembrane in burns victims will shed light on its effectiveness in wound healing and the ease of its use’.