Research on skin, mucous membranes and wounds is getting a real boost at Malmö University’s Research Center for Biointerfaces.

A new research profile called Biobarriers has been set up with a budget of more than 120 million Swedish Kronor. The majority of funding comes from the KK Foundation as well as various companies and the University itself. The work will kick off in November this year and is expected to last for eight years.

"It is very positive and obviously means a lot to the research environment's further development and growth," said Therese Nordström, Director of Biofilms.

Skin and mucous membranes in, for instance, respiratory organs and intestines are the body's most important barriers to protecting us against bacteria and viruses, maintaining a balance of fluids and body temperature, and protecting our internal organs.

Our new research profile will also bridge clinical research in hospitals with patients’ needs.

Johan Engblom

There are three layers to these barriers. The most external layer consists of microbiota, bacteria found on skin and mucous membranes. The next layer is the thin, dead middle layer found on skin or thicker mucus. Finally, the innermost layer consists of living tissue where cells are built and protect the barrier.

"All three layers must be in harmony for the barrier to work," said professor Tautgirdas Ruzgas.

“If any of these layers are destroyed or attacked, the entire barrier will fall. It is the barrier as a whole that helps wounds to heal and prevents ulcers.”

In collaboration with stakeholders, the researchers will try to find solutions that improve health and the healing of these barriers. They hope to establish a ‘toolbox’ to, among other things: create sustainable formulas and creams for wound healing; prevent damaged barriers from worsening; and explore and regulate the bacterial flora on skin and mucous membranes.

"We hope that this will be of great importance to an ageing population with difficult-to-heal wounds, which is a growing problem," said Engblom.

"Our new research profile will also bridge clinical research in hospitals with patients’ needs."

For example, some studies will focus on diabetic patients with severe wounds as well as older patients with incontinence who have irritated and inflamed skin.

"It is very important for us to understand the problem and patients’ needs thoroughly," said Claudia Lindwall, a business developer at Magle Chemoswed, one of the companies involved in the research.

"Through this unique project, where we collaborate with researchers, clinics and other companies with cutting-edge expertise, we’ll be able to cultivate the best conditions for successfully developing products that make a difference for patients."

"Of course, new clinical links will be developed during the course of the project and we believe that our business partners have a lot to contribute in this regard," added Engblom.

Text: Helena Smitt