Beyond the searing pain of burns, permanent scarring of the skin has a devastating lifelong impact on quality of life. Imagine reaching up for the top shelf and having a sharp pain surge down your arm and back. Unfortunately this is the reality for millions of burn victims where skin does not heal with the same elasticity as it’s natural form, instead tightened to the point where stretching can cause intense pain.
Having benefited the lives of countless patients as the pioneer of spray-on-skin and a world-leading esteemed expert in burns, Professor Fiona Wood has been alongside many victims through their recovery journeys. Seeing this tightening of the healed skin and its ongoing mental impact on patients, she has made it her mission to reverse the impacts of burns, essentially to ‘un-scar the scar’.
Her tireless dedication to advancing burn care earned her international acclaim and recognition.
In 2023, Professor Wood led clinical trials conducted at the University of Western Australia, identifying a drug developed by biotech company Syntara (ASX: SNT) as one that could reinvigorate elasticity of the skin in scar tissue.
Syntara’s pan LOX (lysyl oxidase) inhibitors caught her attention, with potential to inhibit the enzymes that create scar tissue. Research was put into clinical trials in 2023 with 42 patients volunteering to apply the topical cream to their scars in a 3-month study.
The results were highly encouraging, showing 66% reduction in LOX enzyme activity which is responsible for the cross linking of collagen fibres implicated in adverse scarring. Collagen was reduced by 30%, a result Professor Wood described as “an unprecedented change to the scar composition that we have not seen with any other form of treatment.”
Perth scientists are trialling a world-first cream to reduce the impact of scars.
— 9News Perth (@9NewsPerth) July 6, 2022
Collagen is most commonly known for its use in cosmetics as an anti-aging agent that tightens skin. However, for burn victims, collagen is naturally created by the body after trauma and results in scar tissue. This scarring does not have the same appearance or functional properties as the tissue it replaces (e.g. loss of elasticity) and can cause pain, discomfort and a lack of mobility in the areas affected.
Patients in those trails had established scars (average 12.8 years old) from various traumas but with the encouraging data, Prof Wood has fresh plans in place to trial Syntara’s pan LOX inhibitors specifically on burn patients with recent burns injuries in an effort to stop the formation of scars.
The forthcoming clinical study will be a 6-month trial targeting 60 patients with scarring subsequent to burn injury with the first of those expected commence dosing in Q1 CY24 with results expected to be reported in the first half of 2025.
In a show of confidence in the science and the potential to meet Professor Wood’s aim to ameliorate burn scars, Syntara received commitments of $10 million from institutional investors in December 2023 to progress their clinical trials, three of which will reach clinical milestones in 2025, including this burns trial, a myelofibrosis trial and a neuroinflammation treatment trial funded by Parkinson’s UK.
Scarring continues to be a major health issue worldwide where trauma events such as burns or lacerations can have an adverse effect on life quality both physically and psychologically. In the developed world alone, there are more than 100 million patients with scars after operations or trauma that can cause both cosmetic and functional problems that include tightening of the skin. Temporary treatments currently used to address these issues generate more than $3.5 billion per annum.
Syntara’s pan LOX inhibitors, however, have shown the potential to permanently modify the scar by reducing the cross linking of collagen fibres and collagen, holding out the potential to revert scars back to their pre-burn elasticity and prevent bad scars forming.
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