Why we Scar
Burn injuries are notorious for their aggressive scars and, depending on the extent and location of the scar, can affect people who are burnt functionally, cosmetically and psychologically for a lifetime.
What is a scar?
Scars are the result of tissue repair after injury and they are both functionally and aesthetically inferior to normal skin and remain that way. In fact, scar tissue will grow with the individual and will remain a similar proportion of the body site.
For example if a scar covers two per cent of the body of a two-year-old, it will cover two per cent of the body of the same 20-year-old.
Reasons for scarring
Each of us is a self-organising mass of cells. From fertilisation of the embryo, tissue structures develop until an adult form and structure is achieved. At that point the capacity for self-organisation is directed to maintaining that form and structure against all the impacts of daily life and the processes of aging.
Different tissues retain differing abilities to heal by regeneration. Scars form because the skins capacity to repair by regeneration is, in all but minor cases, overwhelmed by the impact of the trauma. This results in permanent tissue damage resulting in scar formation.
To heal a wound a source of cells is needed that is capable of transforming into the same tissue type as the wound plus an extracellular matrix capable of supporting the cell migration, proliferation and transformation.
We have facilitated much research in these areas to improve the speed and quality of wound healing to reduce scarring e.g the development of spray-on-skin.
The next step is to consider what dictates the special construction of the healing tissue and how repair can be driven to restore the original form and structure.
We are currently conducting research to better understand how and why scar tissue is formed, and maintained over the lifespan. By so doing we hope to find a way to re-program scar cells to aid regenerative repair and return the scar to normal looking skin.
The ability to transform scar appearance to that of normal skin has an enormous impact on the quality of life of people who have scars from injury or surgery.