Ray of hope for burns victims due to revolutionary new dressing

Biomembrane uses a synthetic version of Decorin which occurs naturally in the body. Credit: University of Birmingham http://bit.ly/1K3HJFp

Researchers from NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC) and the University of Birmingham have created a biomembrane using a molecule Decorin in the hope of preventing scarring in injured tissue. The disfigurement that the burn patients face could be resolved in the near future, thanks to this dressing.

The dressing will be tested on burns patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham in a three-year clinical trial after the team was awarded a £1.6 million grant from Wellcome Trust to fund further research. Decorin is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring molecule in the human body, present in tiny amounts as a part of the amniotic membrane.

Ann Logan, specializing in Molecular Neuroscience, identified this molecule as a potential agent in anti-scarring dressings. This idea came up because of her work in repairing of injured brain and spinal cord tissue. Liam Grover, a biomaterials expert, followed it up by creating a membrane wound dressing incorporating the synthetic molecule and sheets that could be large enough to cover the entire body. The dressing can be freeze-dried making it easier for long term storage without damage and only requires saline rehydration before being used. This increased shelf-life makes it accessible to the soldiers on the battlefield in exigent situations.

To conduct trials for this dressing, researchers will be collaborating with Mr Naiem Moiemen at QEHB through the Healing Foundation Centre for Burns Research. If it proves to be successful, it will be used for various tissues where scars pose an issue, such as in the eye or after neurosurgery. However, the main priority is to prevent dehydration and infection to the burn tissues rather than scarring but the contractures created by these scars can permanently hamper movement. Decorin prevents development of contractures, allowing the wound to be closed with a normal tissue than a scarred tissue.

“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”, said Prof Logan. They are inclined towards promoting the speed of regenerative healing before the skin scars rather than stop scarring altogether.

Prof Grover added: “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”. The catch in such a situation is to ensure that the drugs don’t affect the dressing properties and vice-versa.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: “Burns can be devastating injuries often with huge impact on victim’s lives, so it is great to see such a revolutionary treatment developed right here in the UK.

Prof Liam Grover and Prof Ann Logan with the Biomembrane at University of Birmingham. Credit: University of Birmingham
Prof Liam Grover and Prof Ann Logan with the Biomembrane at University of Birmingham. Credit: University of Birmingham

The original article can be accessed here.