Student Profile

Shiraz Ziya

Investigating the potential of human umbilical cord derived-stem cells for chronic wound healing.

PhD Supervisor(s): Karina Wright; Claire Mennan; Sally Roberts.


PhD Summary

Pressure sores, also known as bedsores and ulcers, are a common and devastating medical complication of spinal cord injury (SCI). Complications arising from bed sores can cause infections that can spread to major organs as well as lead to amputations and be life threatening. About 8% of those with spinal cord injuries die from pressure sores; indeed, one of the most famous SCI patients, the Superman actor Christopher Reeve, succumbed to complications arising from pressure sores. There is therefore a great need for improved treatment regimes; stem cell therapy offers hope of repair or regeneration of the skin in such patients.

Umbilical cords (UC) represent an attractive source of stem cells for off-the-shelf therapies and have been shown by others to promote cutaneous wound healing (Leng et al., 2012; Shohara et al., 2012; Zhang et al., 2012). We have characterised stem cells derived from four distinct cord regions (Wharton’s jelly, artery, vein and cord lining) for musculoskeletal repair (Mennan et al., 2013). However, this project will involve the characterisation of these cells specifically for wound repair.

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust host the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI). Working in conjunction with specialists from the MCSI (Mr A E Osman and Mr RJ Chowdry), work on in vitro wound modelling would be started using the scratch wound assay.

The established scratch-wound assay is an in vitro model of skin wound healing. In this model confluent monolayers of fibroblasts and/or keratinocytes are scored with a sterile point, e.g. a pipette tip, and the cells are observed as they repopulate the scratch area, effectively healing the wound. Fibroblasts and keratinocytes represent the majority of cells present in the epidermis and dermis, respectively, and are responsible for closure, contraction and re-epithelialisation of cutaneous wounds. Using this model we have previously shown that conditioned medium from human bone marrow derived stem cells (MSC) accelerates scratch assay closure (Walter et al., 2009). Working in conjunction with SCI consultants at the MCSI, we will develop a novel assay for chronic wounds such as those in SCI patients to test the efficacy of umbilical cord-derived stem cells (UCSCs) for chronic wound healing

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