RAFT has developed ‘Smart Matrix®’ an innovative treatment that speeds up wound healing and reduces scarring. Now we are conducting further research to develop ‘Smart Matrix’ so that it can be used in the treatment of chronic or hard-to-heal wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers
Chronic or hard-to-heal wounds are a big problem. It’s estimated that around 200,000 patients in the UK and 50m globally suffer from hard-to-heal wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers and pressure sores. Around 20 amputations are undertaken each day in the UK due to diabetic leg ulcers and other diabetic related complications. The increase in the incidence of diabetes together with an ageing population, means the number of people affected in the UK and globally looks set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years.
For the NHS, hard-to-heal wounds are a costly problem – it’s estimated about five per cent (£5.82 billion) of the NHS budget is spent on treatment – while for patients they are an extremely painful and life limiting one.
But these figures and costs are probably only the tip of the iceberg. A study found in Denmark 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.
Why are deep wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers so hard to heal?
The reason that diabetic leg ulcers and other chronic wounds are so hard to heal is that they go beyond the epidermis (top layer of skin), which can heal on its own or with treatment, through to the dermis (the thick inner-layer of skin) and even into the subcutaneous tissue below.
Once damaged, the dermis is difficult to heal because it cannot regrow during treatment. So if the patient recovers, they will usually be left with disfiguring scars which can impede body movement.
Current treatment options
The most effective treatment for chronic wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers is called negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), which helps to remove bacterial infection and reduce inflammation. While this provides the right conditions to allow healing to occur it doesn’t regenerate the wound or encourage new skin tissue to grow, meaning it is not effective on all types of wound.
In some cases, patients require a skin graft to encourage healing. Here a piece of skin is transplanted from another area of their body or from a donor onto the wound. However, this can cause extreme pain at the donor site if the patient’s own tissue is used as well as complications including infection and failure if the transplanted skin dies.
Long term, wounds that won’t heal can lead to amputation and permanent disability. This is more common in patients with diabetic leg ulcers and other complications caused by diabetes.
Smart Matrix®: healing without a skin graft
RAFT has developed Smart Matrix®, an advanced wound care product that has the potential to heal full thickness wounds without a skin graft. Smart Matrix® creates a scaffold that can be placed into the wound itself, enabling the body to not only rapidly close the wound, but actually helping new blood vessels to grow, regenerating the dermis – something that has never been done before.
RAFT’s ‘Smart Matrix®’ has already undergone a small clinical trial in surgical wounds and results are spectacular with both surgeons and patients reporting good and excellent ‘real-world’ results when rating Smart Matrix® on the:
- Level of scarring
- Colour match between existing skin and new skin
- Pliability of skin (essential for good movement)
- Contour match (depth of skin in the healed wound compared to that of undamaged tissue)
Building on success: a solution for diabetic leg ulcers and other hard to heal wounds
At RAFT we are never content to sit on our laurels safe in the knowledge of a job well done – we believe that the success that Smart Matrix® has demonstrated in clinical trials will translate into many more applications that will help patients globally.
However, further research is needed to make it more robust for more complex wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers. Phase two of our research aims to develop a backing to increase the strength of Smart Matrix® so it can be used in conjunction with negative pressure therapy or for use on wounds on a patient’s back or over moving joints.
A world without scars
Our aim is – and always has been – to create wound healing without scars. With Smart Matrix® we believe we are well on the way to achieving this objective – something that will translate into better treatment and better healing outcomes for patients worldwide.
The costs of taking the current version of Smart Matrix® into a second clinical trial is being covered by Smart Matrix Limited (SML), a company created by RAFT but run independently from the charity, to take the product to commercialisation.
By establishing SML as a separate, private organisation, RAFT has been able to negotiate the licence of its patents over Smart Matrix® as well as a service agreement for its scientists’ expertise. This will allow Smart Matrix® to progress to commercialisation whilst securing an income for RAFT to allow it to continue to fund pioneering research in the field of wound and tissue healing.
Phase II, which will explore how Smart Matrix can be adapted for diabetic leg ulcers, pressure sores and other hard-to-heal wounds, will commence following the initial results from the second clinical trial.
RAFT Research Scientists:
- Dr Lilian Hook
- Vaibhav Sharma
- Dr Stuart Brown
- Dr Elena Garcia
The partner for this project is Smart Matrix Limited.