Professor John McGrath and Professor Jemima Mellerio work at King’s College, London, UK on this project to study wounds in RDEB by taking tiny samples across a wound surface using patches of nanoneedles. Nanoneedles are hundreds of thousands of times smaller than the needle that would be used to take a blood sample, over a thousand times thinner than a human hair and tiny enough that they can pierce a single cell. The molecules found in these nanoneedle biopsies will be studied to better understand what will help an individual wound to heal.

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Project: Improved characterization of chronic wounds in RDEB

Investigator: Professor John McGrath, Dr Ciro Chiappini, Dr Mads Bergholt, Professor Jemima Mellerio

Collaboration: Mölnlycke Health Care

Institution: St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Kings College, London, UK

Grant: £142,035

Start Date: 01/02/2022 for three years

Abstract

This project offers a new approach to assessing wounds and wound healing interventions in the inherited blistering skin disease, recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). Ultimately, we wish to develop a bedside test to inform on whether a wound is healing or not, whether a biopsy is indicated (e.g., for cancer), or what might be the best dressing to apply to the wound to promote optimal wound healing. Using technologies and methods unique to the investigators, we aim to use nanoneedle tissue sampling to develop molecular micro-profiling of RDEB wounds. The work will involve Raman Spectroscopy Imaging and Mass Spectrometry Imaging of nanobiopsy material aligned to machine learning classification algorithms. Initially, we plan to work on RDEB wound skin biopsies (taken as part of routine clinical care) to match the molecular profiles to skin histology. The work will then expand to in vivo sampling from patients to develop a more dynamic readout of the status of an RDEB wound. The goal is then to begin to use the technology to assess the impact of various wound care dressings on wound healing. Ultimately, the approach could lead to a more evidence-based approach to dressing selection for specific wounds in individual patients.