HRH The Duke of Sussex visits the world’s first conflict wound research centre

Prince Harry chats to Richard Williams about decorin

HRH The Duke of Sussex met scientists and clinical experts from BHP founder members the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust during a visit to the world’s first specialist military and civilian wound research centre.

HRH arrives at the Centre

His Royal Highness visited the Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research, a ground-breaking national facility based at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which aims to minimise the psychological and physical impact of scarring and limb loss among Armed Forces personnel injured in service and civilians wounded in terrorist attacks.

The Duke met with the University of Birmingham team behind one of the Centre’s flagship research projects, which is developing new treatments to reduce scarring.  The treatments, being developed by scientists at the University’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, include a laser therapy to correct historic scars and a pro-healing protein called Decorin being developed within a new biomaterial gel for use as an anti-scarring dressing.

Decorin is being investigated in a phase 1 clinical trial which is designed to establish the safety of new products in a limited number of patients in a highly controlled hospital environment. This dressing trial will be with 20 patients admitted to hospital with skin burns and will demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the dressing for burns patients. The trial will look at whether it improves the burn’s healing time and reduces scarring, when compared to the current standard of care dressing, Mepitel One. If successful, this project will pave the way for a phase 2 multi-centre clinical trial.

Dr Richard Williams demonstrates Decorin to His Royal Highness

His Royal Highness observed veterans, seriously injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, taking part in a workshop that is part of the Centre’s project piloting tailored psychosocial treatments to help them cope with life with an altered and scarred appearance.

Those taking part in the study have been recruited through The CASEVAC Club, which represents injured veterans, and the research is being carried out in partnership with the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

“The Trust has a long and proud history of collaboration between both military and NHS clinicians and patients. This combined experience of treating both civilian trauma patients and injured personnel has led to the development of pioneering surgical techniques in the management of ballistic, blast and burns trauma, including bespoke surgical solutions for previously unseen injuries.

“To further this work through research will leave a lasting legacy in the improved rehabilitation of our most seriously injured patients.”

Dr David Rosser, Chief Executive, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, was among those to welcome His Royal Highness to the Centre today.  He said: “We have a long and proud history of collaborating with partners to support life changing research and our work with the Scar Free Foundation and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust sees us combine our expertise with the goal of achieving scar free healing within a generation. I was delighted to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex today to see our crucial work in this area first hand.”

“Scarring not only has a lasting physical effect, but can have a serious emotional impact long after the wounds themselves have healed.

“The visible changes in appearance caused by conflict injuries that result in looking ‘different’ can be distressing for military personnel and their families.

“With the help of the people who have experienced this kind of life changing injury we can learn what support is needed by those affected, and develop tailored interventions for the armed forces community, an important part of our goal to deliver scar free healing within a generation.”

Brendan Eley, Chief Executive of the Scar Free Foundation