New dressings which could bring an end to scarring suffered by burns patients are to be used on patients at a Birmingham hospital.
The three-year clinical trial - funded by a £1.6 million research grant - will be carried out at Edgbaston's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
It comes after a team of scientists at the hospital’s Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre worked alongside experts from the University of Birmingham to develop the dressing.
Called a biomembrane, it uses a synthetic version of the molecule called Decorin which occurs naturally in tiny amounts in the body.
The University’s Professor Ann Logan, who specialises in molecular neuroscience, identified it as a possible agent in anti-scarring dressings when she was looking at how to repair injured brain and spinal cord tissue.
She said the main priority for doctors treating burns is to prevent dehydration and infection. Scars, however, can permanently hamper a patient’s movement.
Decorin would allow the wound to be closed with normal tissue rather than scar tissue, bringing an end to disabling disfigurements caused by burns.
The dressing can be freeze dried, allowing it to be stored and manipulated by surgeons without damage, before being rehydrated with saline ahead of use.
This property means that it could even be used by soldiers on the battlefield, keeping a dressing in their kit with a sachet of saline for use in an emergency.
Researchers will now work with burns consultant Naiem Moiemen at the hospital to trial the dressing on patients.
If it is successful, it will be developed to be used in other tissues where scars can be problematic, such as in the eye or after brain surgery.