DEBRA Australia is pleased to announce the successful applicants for its 2012 Research Grants. The principal grant of $15,000 has been awarded to Professor Allison Cowin (pictured top) and Dr Zlatko Kopecki, Centre of Regenerative Medicine, Mawson Institute, University of South Australia, in Adelaide, for their laboratory-based project “Function of Flightless protein in the development of SCC in children with fragile skin”.
Patients with Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB) develop extensive skin blistering and scarring which often lead to the development of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). No specific cure exists and the mechanism behind the development of SCC in children is poorly understood. This pilot study will help to understand the mechanisms involved in SCC tumour growth in children with skin blistering diseases and identify potential routes for preventing its formation, which may open up further research avenues.
Professor Cowin and Dr Kopecki have a strong track record in wound healing research and this grant will help them to expand their program to understand more about the processes behind the development of SCC. Professor Cowin and Dr Kopecki commented that they “were grateful for the award from DEBRA Australia and they hope that that their research will lead to new approaches to help reduce the incidence of SCC in patients with EB.”
As further research funds have become available due to a recent bequest, the Board of DEBRA Australia has also decided to make a smaller, secondary award of $10,000 to Dr Mae Ramirez and Professor Dédée Murrell (pictured below) from the Department of Dermatology, St George Hospital, University of NSW, in Sydney, to assist in the conduct of their Clinical Trial “Investigation of Micro-needling Skin Therapy for Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB).” Micro-needling has long been used in cosmetic surgery to improve scarring, but has not been used in wound treatment. This study compares the effects of micro-needling to a placebo in patients with RDEB, to see if wounds heal faster with micro-needling.
Professor Murrell explained, “This project follows on from a previous clinical trial that we completed, which had the unexpected result that healing was as good in patients receiving injections of placebo alone as those who received an experimental therapy of cultured cells called dermal fibroblasts. If micro-needling alone proves to be effective, it may offer a cheap and effective method of healing RDEB wounds.”
Dr Ramirez, who qualified as a dermatologist in the Philippines, is a dermatology research fellow with Professor Murrell who established the Australasian EB registry and the diagnostic lab for EB in Australia. Dédée has a track record of EB management and research since 1995, including collaborations with Prof Cowin and Dr Kopecki.