Chronic wounds are those wounds that do not heal rapidly, and include venous leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and pressure ulcers.
Management of chronic wounds in Wales costs the NHS £180million a year with 200,000 new cases presented annually in the UK.
Until now, it has been impossible to know how they will respond to therapy and therefore provide the best possible treatment from day one.
Some patients heal within a reasonable time but others require more specialist care and take a lot longer to heal. It can take up to twelve weeks to find out whether a wound is responding to conventional treatment, which is ineffective in treating 60% of cases.
Two leading academics at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine have now developed a test to predict how well a wound is likely to respond to conventional treatment and optimise the treatment accordingly.
Professor Keith Harding, Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine/Wound Healing and Professor Wen Jiang, Professor in Surgery and Tumour Biology, have been awarded £150,000 from the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme to validate the technology.
The test identifies the wound type based on its gene signature. The initial work, which resulted into two patents filed by Cardiff University, was conducted using frozen tissue samples with a 98% accuracy rate.
A4B funding will now enable a clinical study to verify the validity of the test, using samples from fifty patients.
The project that is due to be completed in early 2012 will also benefit from additional funding of £53,000 from the University’s Cardiff Partnership Fund.
Professors Harding and Jiang intend to set up a company to commercialise the product with support from Fusion IP, Cardiff University’s commercialisation partner.
When validated, the technology developed in Wales, could be sold as a kit and distributed worldwide or used to provide a service processing and reporting results, catering for a national and international market.
Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, described the project as a development with great potential to ease suffering while also creating significant economic benefits.
“Life Sciences is one of the key sectors of the Welsh economy with high growth potential and I am pleased A4B is supporting the next stage of this ground breaking research. We have areas of real strength in research in Wales and wound healing is amongst those, so it is pleasing to hear that technology developed in Wales could have a significant impact for the medical community.”
Professor Harding said chronic wounds are a huge burden on society. “The inability to identify wounds that will heal without difficulty from those that will not is currently an iterative process often requiring several months of different therapies before selecting a high cost, high tech therapy.
“This is both unfair to the patient and expensive to provide. Successful development of this product would transform service provision by giving patients the right treatment at the earliest possible opportunity”.
Professor Jiang added, “The very close correlation between the genetic signature and the future outcome of the wound healing process gives us confidence that this test will deliver real benefits to patients.”