Chronic wounds (wounds that do not heal within 12 weeks) remain one of the most debilitating health problems in the UK and globally. It’s estimated that around 200,000 patients in the UK and 50 million globally suffer from chronic wounds such as leg ulcers and pressure sores. For the NHS, chronic wounds are a costly problem – it’s estimated about five per cent (£5.82 billion) of the NHS budget is spent on treatment. In cases where treatment is not successful, lower limb amputation may be required.
But these figures and costs are probably only the tip of the iceberg. A study in Denmark found that nearly 60 per cent of open pressure sores are not reported in medical records. If Denmark is typical, then the true global numbers and costs must be staggering.
Although considerable research into chronic wounds is taking place, a fully effective treatment method is yet to be established.
Why are chronic wounds so difficult to heal?
Chronic wounds are typically characterised by prolonged inflammation, often due to persistent microbial infection, which prevents the wound from progressing through the normal stages of the healing process.
In addition to infection, poor circulation, edema (swelling), inadequate nutrition and repetitive trauma to the wound are factors which can prevent normal wound healing.
Current Treatment Options
Currently the most effective treatment for chronic wounds is careful management via the use of dressings, antibiotics and debridement of necrotic tissue. In addition to this, negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) can be used to remove bacterial infection and reduce inflammation.
While such wound management methods provide the right conditions to allow healing to occur, they do not regenerate the wound or encourage new skin tissue to grow; therefore, they are not effective on all types of wounds.
RAFT’s Chronic Wound Research
RAFT’s researchers achieved success in the field of wound healing with their dermal replacement scaffold, Smart Matrix®. Smart Matrix® is currently in its 2nd clinical trial, where it is being used to heal acute wounds without the need for a skin graft – click here to learn more about Smart Matrix®. The research team is now looking to build on this success by creating a product which addresses the challenges presented by chronic wounds.
The aim of RAFT’s chronic wound project is to develop a novel biomaterial with antimicrobial properties, to act as a temporary skin while fighting infection. The biomaterial will also contain an active molecule with anti-inflammatory properties, and a naturally derived polymer which is known to encourage blood vessel formation.
Once implanted within the chronic wound, the biomaterial will remove the persistent infection and encourage a natural wound healing response.