Meet Hilary

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Hilary WallaceAssociate Professor Hilary Wallace has worked as a scientist in the field of wound healing research for over 20 years. Hilary joined the Burn Injury Research Unit (BIRU) in 2009 and has led a diverse range of clinical research projects, including understanding genetic and microbiological risk factors for poor scarring after burn injury, new methods of scar assessment and novel molecular targets underlying scarring based on epigenetic modifications in scar cells.

Hilary’s research focus has been to understand the genetic influence on scar outcome after burn injury. After similar types of burn injury there are significant differences in scarring between patients, with some having very visible scars whilst others heal exceptionally well. This is because genetics plays an important role in how people scar and their outcomes after a burn injury. This study aimed to identify the genetic variation associated with poor scarring after burn injury.

We completed a study analysing the genomes of 665 patients (from a total of 953 patients recruited to the study). We measured scar height and pliability and looked for genes that might be associated with poor pliability and increased height of the scars. In this study we found key pathways that could be important in driving scarring, including pathways important in nerve signalling and in controlling how cells attach to their environment.

The results of this study have now been submitted for publication and have also formed the basis of research using Watson Drug Discovery and cognitive computing to identify new genes and pathways that cause poor scar outcomes. We are using this novel approach to better understand how genetics plays a role in scarring. We now aim to investigate the genes and pathways we found further to understand why they are important and how we can change clinical treatment to improve scarring.

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