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Advances in wound care offer hope to millions of Americans

  • New Research May Improve Wound Healing for Older Adults, Diabetics, Burn and Accident Victims and Patients Recovering from Surgery

New York - Revolutionary advances using tissue engineering, growth factors, animal-fetal-cell research, stem-cell research, and gene therapy may offer new hope to patients who experience acute and chronic wounds, said a national panel of wound care authorities recently convened in New York by the Wound Healing Society (WHS). The roundtable, "Advances in Wound Care," was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Smith & Nephew, Inc., a global leader in wound care.

Everyone, at one point in their lives, suffers with acute wounds caused by traumas such as accidents, burns and surgery. An estimated 5 million Americans suffer with chronic wounds (wounds that heal slowly or don't heal), such as pressure sores (4 million) and diabetic ulcers (1 million). The incidence of chronic wounds in the U.S. is equal to that of hospitalizations from heart disease (5 million) and greater than that of annual births (3.8 million), deaths from heart disease (1 million), and hip and knee replacements (500,000).

"Wounds are one of the greatest causes of deformity and death in the world, and are a tremendous financial burden on the healthcare system. Yet, unfortunately, they remain an unimportant issue for most Americans until an accident or personal tragedy calls attention to the problem," said Kelman Cohen, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Director of the Wound Healing Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Cohen is a founding member of the WHS and President of the Society's Wound Healing Foundation.

Chronic wound care costs Americans an estimated U.S dollars 16 - dlrs 24 billion each year, which represents five per cent of the total annual spending on both Medicare and Medicaid combined, according to panelist member Peter Stevens, Ph.D., M.B.A.

"Unless we focus on solutions now, chronic wounds will become a 'demographic time bomb' as the population ages. It is estimated that 1 in 4 older adults will suffer with pressure sores in their later years," said Dr. Stevens. "This is a worldwide problem, as Japan, Italy, Germany, the European Union and the U.S. all have populations with greater than 20 per cent of individuals over the age of 65 and this age group is anticipated to double over the next 30 years."

For these and other important reasons, the Wound Healing Society is dedicated to raising awareness about wound healing, promoting research in wound healing and translating knowledge about proper wound care and research into improved clinical care.

"Increased public understanding about the incidence, severity and economic impact of wounds coupled with new advances in wound healing technology will not only improve the quality of our care, but also the quality of our patients' lives," said Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, and President of the WHS.

New Advances in Wound Care

Wound care experts at the meeting discussed several advances that help patients today and research that holds promise for the future. Highlights include:

  • Tissue Engineering: Tissue engineering allows physicians to treat tissue loss using minimal donor tissue, explained Dennis Orgill, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Advances such as multi-layer membranes, transplantable sheets of living keratinous tissue, biodegradable polymers for cell transplantation and tissue equivalents help improve the lives of patients today, he continued. Further research will continue to offer advancements in this area.
  • Scar Prevention: Current treatment to heal scars focuses on silicone gel sheeting, which is easy to use, painless and safe, noted Thomas Mustoe, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Evanston, Illinois, and former President of the WHS. Prior to this, very little was available to improve scars, he continued. Recently, significant strides have been made in understanding the mechanisms of scarring and the potential of the growth factor TGF Beta in blocking collagen synthesis.
  • Growth factors: Growth factors increase the wound's capacity to heal by causing cells to grow and attracting new cells to the wound. The use of growth factors to accelerate the healing of wounds offers tremendous promise as a therapeutic approach to treating chronic wounds such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, according to Dr. Mustoe.
  • Animal-fetal-cell research: Fetal wound repair, unlike adult wound repair, occurs with little or no acute inflammation or scarring. Animal derived fetal cells are being studied for their value in regenerating damaged tissue resulting from acute and chronic wounds. Ongoing research in this area will focus on discovery of the fetal wound healing genotype for broad therapeutic application in wound repair, according to Jeffrey Haynes, M.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
  • Stem-cell research: Research has identified stem cells as enormously powerful regenerative tools in wound healing. These cells are already present throughout the body, including in bone marrow, muscle, and cartilage. Continued stem cell research will further define the role of these vital cells in wound repair. For example, potential exists to genetically manipulate stem cells to correct inborn errors of metabolism or to deliver gene products as medicine, according to Jeffrey Davidson, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennesee.
  • Gene therapy: Gene therapy in wound healing is useful as a delivery mechanism to provide proteins directly into the cells of a wound to promote healing, noted Elof Eriksson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Expert Panel

Distinguished panel members included:

  • Kelman Cohen, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Director of the Wound Healing Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, founding member of the WHS and President of the Society's Wound Healing Foundation.
  • Gregory Schultz, Ph.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and President of the WHS (1999 - 2000).
  • Basil Pruitt, Jr., M.D., University of Texas, Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, Texas, and immediate past President of the American Surgical Association.
  • Thomas Mustoe, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Evanston, Illinois, and former President of the WHS (1997 - 1999).
  • David Steed, M.D., Professor of Surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Director of the Wound Healing/Limb Preservation Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and President-elect of the Wound Healing Society.
  • Peter Stevens, Ph.D., M.B.A., President of Growth & Innovation Strategies, a consulting service to the medical device industry.
  • Elof Eriksson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Jeffrey Davidson, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennesee.
  • Jeffrey Haynes, M.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
  • Dennis Orgill, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Annette Wysocki, Ph.D., Chief of the Wound Healing Laboratory, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

About The Sponsors

Wound Healing Society is the premiere international association for the dissemination of basic information as well as clinical research regarding wound healing. Its mission is to advance the science and practice of wound healing. WHS fulfills its mission by providing a venue for the exchange of biomedical information, supporting research in wound healing and tissue repair, fostering training in wound healing and serving as an authority for government and private agencies. In conjunction with other sponsoring societies, WHS publishes the scholarly, peer-reviewed, bimonthly journal, Wound Repair and Regeneration. In addition to the journal, WHS has a Foundation which sponsors research activity and encourages young investigators to enter into the field of wound healing.

Beyond providing an unrestricted educational grant to support "Advances in Wound Care," Smith & Nephew also provides young investigator awards to the Society for funding of emerging research. Smith & Nephew is the market leader in advanced wound management in the U.S. and internationally, pioneering the development of products and technologies in the fields of tissue engineering, pharmaceuticals and polymer based wound dressings. Dedicated to improving the quality of life of patients with chronic wounds, Smith & Nephew also leads in clinical education and support, with the largest team of wound and skin care specialists in the U.S. Smith & Nephew's Wound Management Division is based in Largo, Florida. The company's global headquarters is located in the United Kingdom.

SOURCE Wound Healing Society



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