Thesis: Development of Hydrogel Scaffolds for Scarless Wound Healing
The study will investigate thermo-sensitive and thermo-responsive polymers as dressings to promote wound healing. The polymeric scaffolds will be studied in combination with anti-scarring drugs, growth factors and inorganic components (silver nanoparticles to impart antimicrobial properties; pearl nacre to study the epitaxial effects of scaffolds in regeneration) in both in vitro and in vivo burn injury models .
Why my research is important
Skin, the largest organ of the body, consists of a keratinized stratified epidermis and an underlying thick layer of connective tissue (dermis), known to secrete collagen, providing support. Every year millions of people suffer from burn injury, with greater prevalence in developing countries. The most common causes are domestic or industrial accidents and natural calamities. The most recent WHO report, released in 2002, on mortality due to fire across continents shows 11% mortality in the middle to low-income group in South East Asia . Although the mortality rate has subsided, burn injuries are the leading cause of disability and disfigurement . It is estimated that fire-related burns account for 10 million Disability Adjusted Life Years lost globally each year . It is evident that despite the medical advancements in burn treatments, the treatment and recovery process is static, leading to scar formation which has psychological, social and economic effect on the patients and their families.
Skin repair starts with a clot that plugs the defect and subsequently steps to regenerate the missing or damaged tissue are initiated. Inflammatory cells and then fibroblasts and capillaries invade the clot to form a contractile granulation tissue that draws the wound margins together . Finally, the tissue is remodelled, which ultimately results in the formation of stable scar tissue.
The development of excessive scarring is commonly thought to relate to the time to heal, with extended healing time leading to worse outcomes. Therefore the development of treatments that can promote faster healing has the potential to reduce scarring and improve the outcome for patients.
One possibility to promote healing is the use of biocompatible scaffolds that can promote repair. An ideal scaffold should be stable for considerable period of time, mimic the basic functionality of skin in properties such as permeability and exchange of oxygen and water while providing protection against infection, promote cell growth, deliver a drug on demand and be biodegradable or at least easily removable. Some artificial templates currently exist, such as INTEGRA, but in the main these are expensive, and prone to a number of problems in clinical application. Thus use of these templates has been restricted to the most severe injuries.
 WHO in Fact sheet about injuries on burns Vol. WHO, 2002, pp. 1-5.
 C. Mock, M. Peck, M. Peden, E. Krug, R. Ahuja, H. Albertyn, W. Bodha, P. Cassan, W. Godakumbura, G. Lo, J. Partridge and T. Potokar in A WHO plan for burn prevention and care, Vol. World Health Organisation, Geneva, 2008.
 M. Malmsten and B. Lindman, Macromolecules 1992, 25, 5440-5445.