Researcher investigates why wounds don’t heal, or form deep scars

Researcher Dr Xanthe Strudwick

A University of South Australia researcher is investigating why some chronic wounds don’t heal and why others that do, form deep scars.

According to Wounds Australia, more than 420,000 people suffer from chronic wounds, a common side effect of diabetes, obesity, and vascular and autoimmune diseases, costing the healthcare system more than $3 billion annually.

Researcher Dr Xanthe Strudwick is among emerging scientists tackling the health crisis with ‘cutting-edge technology’.

There is currently no effective diagnostic tools to predict whether a patient will develop a chronic wound, or suffer from excessive scarring, she says.

“My research takes a two-pronged approach to improve burn and diabetic healing, understanding the fundamental biology and proteins responsible for impaired healing and scar formation and, in collaboration with physicists and chemists, developing advanced wound dressings and technologies to treat infected wounds,” Dr Strudwick explains.

“A protein called Flightless I (Flii) is present in high amounts in both burns and diabetic patients and seems to impair healing as well as form scars.

“We need to work out how to reduce the levels of this protein at the same time as developing advanced hydrogel dressings that can deliver antimicrobials and oxygen to successfully treat infected wounds.”

Ideally, Dr Strudwick says the aim is to reach a state where wounds completely heal and where the restored skin appears identical to, and works as well as, the original. But at the moment, there aren’t treatments that enable this.

Recently named a 2023 SA Young Tall Poppy of Science as one of eight outstanding early career researchers, a video of Dr Strudwick’s research can be viewed here

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