Summer Student 2017: Sergi Fayos Villalta
Supervised by Dr Colin Boyle at Imperial College London, Sergi Fayos Villalta undertook a computational modelling project looking at the development of pressure ulcers and soft tissue damage to replace the use of mice and rats.
This project was kindly and generously sponsored by Raj Saubhag.
Pressure ulcers are injuries to muscle and skin caused by prolonged external pressure. They are extremely debilitating for patients, as they cause considerable pain, and require the pressure site to be unloaded for long durations. The wounds can be difficult to heal, and infection is a major risk. The treatment of pressure ulcers costs the NHS £2 billion per year. One area of the body that rarely gets pressure ulcers is the plantar skin on the sole of the foot. Sergi investigated how plantar skin is better able to bear load than skin from other parts of the body, to help in the prevention of pressure ulcers on other body sites.
Computational models can be used to determine the pressures within soft tissues. Sergi’s research is the first to develop computational models that include the microstructure of skin. This allowed him to evaluate how the skin on the sole of the foot protects that region from pressure ulcers and further our understanding of ulcer formation in skin. Computational models that account for the structure of the skin will better predict a patient’s risk of ulcer, and enabling the researchers to suggest novel preventative therapies.
Pigs are used to assess pressure ulcer development as they has similar skin architecture to human skin. Such animals have long been used to quantify the mechanical loads required to induce ulcers in human skin. Sergi believe that computational models based on human data have more predictive potential than these animals and can probe the stresses and strains within the layers of human skin accurately and locally with his model, replacing the need to use any animals or animal derived products.
Reference: Yeung et al., Wound Rep Regen. 2016; 24:1089-109.
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