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Healing burns from the inside out

Health & Medical

A new antibody treatment that heals burns from the inside out is drawing closer to human trials following a funding boost.

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University of South Australia researchers developed the antibody treatment in a bid to neutralise an upregulated protein, which has been found to prevent wounds healing.


Lead researcher Professor Allison Cowin said the protein impaired healing responsed by decreasing the ability of cells to proliferate and migrate into wounds.


She said the antibody treatment worked by binding to the protein preventing it from functioning normally.


“We’ve shown that if we apply the antibody to burns in different models that it improves healing responses,” Professor Cowin said.


Unlike traditional burn treatments, which have relied on topical approaches, the antibody could be given through a drip, enabling it to heal multiple wounds at once.


Animal trials have shown the antibody’s ability to treat partial thickness burns.


National Health and Medical Research Council this month granted the research more than $AU800,000 to examine the efficacy of the treatment on a range of burn severities, trial dosage quantities and humanise the therapy.


“We’re wanting see if this idea of ours – to deliver the antibody systemically – will heal multiple wounds at the same time, which in the case of a burn, a major burn, could be really life changing,” Professor Cowin, pictured below, said.


The injectable antibody therapy is one of nine University of South Australia projects to receive funding in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants. The Adelaide-based university researchers were collectively awarded $AU7.6 in health grants from the Federal Government.


“We haven’t really progressed our treatment of wounds for many years now. We’re still just using dressings and skin grafts and we’re still not able to prevent scarring,” Professor Cowin said. 


“So even if you survived your burn, you’re more than likely going to have horrific scars. So I guess that by being able to promote our healing response better, which is what we aim to do, I would hope that that would lead to reduce scarring and fibrosis as well.”


Professor Cowin said the treatment could be used in conjunction with other therapies and was not intended to eliminate other burn treatments but to help the body heal itself in severe cases.


She said the treatment also had the potential to heal conditions beyond burns.


“We’re developing it for diabetic foot ulcers and other types of wounds that don’t heal. For example, children who have fragile skin conditions such as epidermalisis bullosa (EB) – those children get blisters all over the surface of their skin. So the idea of being able to deliver a systemic therapeutic to those children would be amazing as well,” she said.


“For conditions such as EB, which is a lifelong condition, those children might need ongoing weekly injections. But at least it would help those wounds heal, which, you would expect, would enable them to have a much healthier life and lifespan.


“That’s a separate project to the burns grant, but a lot of what we learn from the burns grant we can apply to other areas as well.”


Professor Cowin said during the three-year study the team would investigate the appropriate antibody dose and frequency of delivery required for a variety of burn severities.


“Once we’ve done that we need to humanise it so that it’s not seen as a foreign body when you put it into a human,” she said. 


“At the moment it’s a mouse monoclonal antibody so we have to go through a process to make it human, then we can start clinical trials. 


“So at the end of the three years we hope to be at the stage where we will be able to trial on humans.”


This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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