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An Ambassador Audience with Professor Paul Martin

Scar Free Researcher Paul Martin, Professor of Cell Biology, and his dedicated and passionate team met with our Ambassadors to discuss the incredible research that is taking place at The University of Bristol to identify the gene(s) that causes scarring and inform future treatments.

The Scar Free Foundation Programme of Wound Healing Research at the University of Bristol is the first study of its kind in the world - combining large scale population health data with model organism studies using zebrafish to analyse the role that genes play in wound repair and scar formation.

Professor Paul Martin and his team presented to our Ambassadors, discussing the progress they have made so far on this important scarring research – and Ambassadors feeding back on their personal experiences of scarring and how the research will help future generations.

Professor Martin explained how the research at The University of Bristol is helping towards our mission of scar free healing.

“We know that different people scar in different ways - through comparative biology the team and I at Bristol Uni are trying to find out what the difference is between someone who scars a great deal and someone that barely scars at all."

The ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) is a Bristol cohort of over 14,000 mothers who, along with their children and partners, have been followed up intensively over two decades since being recruited to the study in the early 90s. The women and their babies have had blood samples taken so they can be genotyped in the lab. The scientists have been using ALSPAC to investigate the reasoning behind some women having smaller BCG scars than others.

"With ALSPAC we can ask questions about how the women wound, and how their wounds heal. We are able to measure this through the BCG scar - what is so different genetically to the women who have a small BCG scar to those who have a giant BCG scar?”

With the information from ALSPAC, Professor Martin and his team are looking for genes that are associated with the mothers who have less of a scar from the BCG jab. So far, the team have identified the LGR4 gene which has been associated with the mothers who have less jab scarring than other women with the same jab. The LG4 gene is taken and mutated for use with the zebrafish to investigate whether the heads up from the human data is valid – the team want to find out whether the LGR4 gene is really associated with scarring.

“Once we have identified the scarring genes, we are able to make mutants of the gene through the CRISPR technique. In the next year or so, the team will be able to find out why that gene is involved with scarring."

The team at Bristol University hopes to identify at least two to three types of genes that may be associated with scarring per year to test on the translucent zebrafish. If a gene reacts to scarring in the zebrafish, it can be taken to the clinic for further testing. This life changing research will help us identify which factors cause us all to scar differently, and develop innovative treatments to improve patients’ lives – bringing us closer to our goal of scar free healing.

“No matter how many times I hear Paul speak, he and his team always show the passion and commitment that it will take to understand why scars happen and how we can change things. They make it so easy to see why the fundamental research they do, and the SFF supports, is so important in making a difference to real people. It gives great confidence that we are shifting the tide and steadily swimming towards scar free healing and a world without scars.”

Lottie Pollak, Scar Free Ambassador