Defence investment set to transform recovery from combat trauma

Regenerative Medicine – Phase 2 funding taking radical new therapies to the front line

The University of Nottingham will be expanding its research into tissue regeneration to treat blast injuries after receiving a share of a new funding award.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham will continue to research a novel approach to preserve and regenerate soft tissue after blast and ballistic trauma through transient gene therapy. Preserving living tissue after injury is critically important and will significantly improve quality of life.

The University of Bristol has also received a share of the 500k funding that has been awarded at Phase 2 of the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Regenerative Medicine themed competition which is facilitated and managed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on behalf of the MOD, in partnership with the Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma (ADMST).

Advanced therapy for use in the field

Dealing with damage caused by blast or ballistic trauma, which may involve significant blood loss and multiple complex wounds, is a challenge for even the most sophisticated medical facility. Yet to do this in the austere and remote environments within which the military operate further complicates the delivery of medical care. Approaches in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine hold great promise for the treatment of injured service personnel and the new ‘Defence regenerative medicine research strategy’ is focussed on delivering such advanced therapies in a way suitable for use in the field early after injury.

The ReGENErate project from Dr James Dixon’s group at the University of Nottingham uses the novel approach of a safe and effective gene therapy developed at the School of Pharmacy with negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) that is deployed by the military to treat wounds such as blast and ballistic trauma. This innovativeproject aims to deliver growth-factor and anti-inflammatory genes to wounds via the vacuum generated by using NPWT, making the wound heal more effectively and rapidly.

The first phase showed this was possible in models of skin wounds, this next stage will be to show how effective the therapy could be in real living skin samples. The idea is this therapy can be deployed at the front line as an enhancer of the NPWT technology and there are several industrial stakeholders interested in the technology if Dr Dixon’s team can demonstrate the beneficial effect of the approach with this next funding.

We hope that our system can represent a new approach to applying gene therapy to regenerative medicine applications, and that this can have impact on healing of trauma on the battle field and could help with chronic wounds like ulcers or in scaring. The DASA funding will help accelerate the research so we can exemplify the technology with the aim to trial the system in a deployable format in the next proposal.

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