85 Views

Innovative research into treating burn patients

Every week the Biochemistry department at Sussex holds a seminar session with guest speakers open to all. Whether they are captivating or go way over my head, it’s always interesting to hear about research being done in a completely different area of science and particularly nice when they grab my attention. A couple weeks back, the seminar was hosted by one of my favourite lecturers, Dr Louise Serpell, so I thought I’d head over. And was very pleasantly surprised.

Her guest speaker, Dr Toby Jenkins, is currently undergoing research into creating better dressings in the prevention of infection for burn victims. And he has some intriguing findings. Jenkins and his lab focus mainly on paediatric burn victims (children). Accidents like a spilt cup of tea can mean horrible scars and even death in young children and they happen all the time. As infants have a different biochemistry to adults and different pharmacological needs and responses, they are also of particular interest clinically.
For instance, children are at particular risk of infection following burns, with a high incidence of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS can be fatal if undiagnosed. The main culprit is a superantigen toxin called TSST-1 (TSS toxin-1). A normal antigen, after cellular uptake, will bind with a specific MHC molecule and be recognised by a specific type of T cell. T cells are a king of white blood cell which kicks in the body’s immune response. It is called a supernatigen as it has no T cell specificity. It will thus induce an over activation of T cells, which can ultimately lead to death if untreated.
Burn wounds can be classified into superficial, partial thickness and full thickness. The most common of which in children is partial thickness and can often be treated without surgery.

But often, skin grafts are necessary to achieve healing. This is when “smart dressings” come in. Conventionally, normal non-adherent dressings were used. But these are very prone to infection, especially as they have to be removed and replaced often. Some new specialised dressings – termed biological dressings – have come onto the market recently. Biologically-derived dressing BiobraneTM is state of the art and focuses on encouraging epithelial growth and preventing infection. It is made from collagen-coated nylon and packed with growth factors that create an ideal environment for tissue regrowth. It has been very effective and its results bode well for the future, being used in many specialist burn centres.

The trouble is that these dressings don’t detect or heal burn wound infection. The only way to find out if a child has an infection is either to remove the dressings – which could lead to greater infection – or clinically diagnose it – by which time the child is already in a critical state. What’s more, many of the growth factors that encourage skin growth are also likely to encourage microbial growth. This is where Jenkins comes in. His team are working hard on creating a biological dressing that both generates a positive environment for skin cells to grow, but also detects and treats infection. The idea is that the dressing could contain a colour marker, which would alert clinicians to an infection and release antimicrobials to deal with the infection.

But how would it work? The design is based on the generalisation that most toxins contain enzymes that attack cell membranes. Cell membranes are formed of a double layer of phospholipids which are degraded by these enzymes. Another cellular components composed of a double layer of phospholipids are vesicles. They are used in cellular processes to carry molecules from one area of the cell to another, or from one cell to another. It is possible to synthetically create vesicles; a number of drug delivery systems work in the same way. The drugs are in vesicles which then get degraded in our stomachs. Jenkins has focused his research on synthesising a vesicle which would contain an antimicrobial as well as a dye which changes colour. The enzymes from toxins which would attack the cell membranes would also attack the vesicles in the dressing. They would then release the dye and the antimicrobial substances to both treat and diagnose the infection.

Although the research for the right dyes and antimicrobials is still in its early days, the work has already ruled out some key candidates, like silver. Nanoparticles of silver are very in at the moment but they have a high toxicity risk, especially at the concentrations needed for them to be effective in fighting bacteria.

It is also important that the created vesicles only respond to pathogenic bacteria and not harmless bacteria which are important in the normal defence against infection. The Jenkins lab do not see their product being on the market before 2015 – as there is still a lot of research to be done – but they have proven the importance and significance of their research with the many children’s lives they have already helped to save.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
496 views1
Campus News
496 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
21 views
Arts
21 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
73 views
Arts
73 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
83 views
Arts
83 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
107 views
Arts
107 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
128 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
139 views
Arts
139 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
132 views
Arts
132 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
210 views
Campus News
210 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
98 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
196 views
Arts
196 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
129 views
Arts
129 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
203 views
Artist Focus
203 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
140 views
Interview
140 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
209 views
Arts
209 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
229 views
Arts
229 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
271 views
Arts
271 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
187 views
Artist Focus
187 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
189 views
Books
189 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
243 views
Science
243 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
257 views
News
257 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…