Biomaterials for healing babies wounds

More than 80, 000 babies in England are born prematurely each year and need specialist hospital care. If a baby is born preterm between 25 and 34 weeks gestation, survival rate is about 80% and the baby may suffer with life-long disabilities. For all babies, there is poor healing of the fetal membranes after premature rupture.

Our research has found a reason for this poor healing response. We believe that in the amniotic membrane, Cx43 prevents cells from crawling to the wound edge where they would normally produce collagen that build structural bridges and repair defects. To encourage repair, we are developing biomaterials that form a bridge-like environment for the cells to crawl into and rebuild the environment with proteins such as collagen and elastin. We are also integrating the biomaterials with therapeutics that reduce Cx43 which we know can slow down cell migration.

This approach will help to promote tissue regeneration in the fetal membrane by manipulation of Cx43. Effectively repairing defects in the fetal membranes and preventing PPROM for just a few weeks could prevent the life-long medical conditions and disabilities associated with preterm birth.

This research is funded by Sparks and Rosetrees Trust.