Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) - Dr John Connelly
This project aims to develop an engineered in vitro model of wound healing and then to use this to identify the factors that regulate wound closure. It will establish a novel platform that could replace many mouse studies and improve pre-clinical testing of drugs and therapeutics.

Chronic, non-healing wounds, such as venous, pressure, or diabetic ulcers, are costly and difficult to treat conditions and a major healthcare concern in the UK. Because the wound environment within the skin is extremely complex, consisting of many different cells, proteins, and signalling molecules, determining the key regulators and underlying mechanisms responsible for impaired healing remains a significant challenge.

Home Office statistics from 2008 to 2012 indicate that a total of 300,666 animal procedures have been performed on the skin, the majority (81%) of these have been on mice. Of these, an estimate is that over the past five years approximately 25,000 procedures on mice and 30,000 procedures on all animals have been performed in the UK for wound healing studies.

Wound healing procedures performed on animals typically involve making one or more excisional or incisional wounds on the back and tracking wound closure over time both by gross observation and histology. Wounding procedures require general anaesthesia and are classified by the Home Office to have moderate severity. Complications can include pain, infection, dehydration, and death for the animals.

This research project aims to develop an engineered in vitro model of wound healing where many different components of the wound environment can be controlled and analysed. The scientists then plan to use this model to identify combinations of different adhesive proteins and internal signalling molecules that regulate wound closure. The results of these studies will provide new and important insights into the regulatory mechanisms involved in wound healing. In addition, it will establish a novel experimental platform that could replace many animal studies and improve pre-clinical testing of drugs and therapeutics. The use of human cells and high-throughput analysis will also provide physiologically human-relevant data in a more efficient manner than is possible with mouse experiments.