College of Medicine and Dentistry News & Events Our People JCU researchers testing new life-saving burns therapy

JCU researchers testing new life-saving burns therapy

Thu, 22 Mar 2018
JCU researchers testing new life-saving burns therapy
Lisa Davenport
Lisa Davenport

A new drug therapy that could save the lives of burns victims is on the horizon, thanks to the work of three JCU researchers.

Head of Heart, Trauma and Sepsis Research at JCU, Professor Geoffrey Dobson and Research Fellow, Dr Hayley Letson are currently mentoring fifth year JCU medical student, Lisa Davenport, who is conducting the burns research.

Professor Dobson said, “In 2002, burns research in Australia was a national priority area and then the government appeared to have lost interest.  Unfortunately, a decade and half later there remain huge gaps in our knowledge and treatments.”

He said, Lisa’s research could fill the gap and change the way burns victims are treated.

“Globally, there are approximately 11 million burn victims each year and over 300,000 of these victims will die from their injuries.

“Lisa's work has high relevance to prehospital and retrieval medicine in urban, rural and remote locations, and for military combat casualty care and terrorist attacks.

“Our aims and objectives are to build on basic research on a new small-volume therapy and translate the innovation to reduce mortality and morbidity in burn victims.”

Lisa said, her burns research proposal was inspired by her real world experience dealing with burn victims as a paramedic practicing in Cairns and Far North Queensland.

“Working as a paramedic I saw an unmet need to improve the management of burns. Currently, there is no therapy for acute burn injury and I wanted to try and find a solution.”

She said, in the case of major burns first responders can do little to nothing to help the burn victim before they are transferred to a burns center.

“We cool the burn with running water and then we give IV fluids but you can watch the damage occur right before your eyes, as a paramedic.”

Lisa recently received a $15,000 research grant from The KJ McPherson Education and Research Foundation, for her honours research project on burns management.

She will use the grant money to start testing her hypothesis in the Heart, Trauma and Sepsis Research laboratory, with Professor Geoffrey Dobson and Hayley Letson.

Dr Letson said, “Lisa will explore new ways to resuscitate the body early after severe burns in a preclinical study using an adenosine, lidocaine and magnesium (ALM) burn therapy developed in our lab.”

Professor Dobson and Dr Letson developed the drug therapy that will be used in Lisa’s research project.

“The hypothesis Lisa will test is that the new fluid will improve cardiac [heart] function and protect the vascular endothelium [blood vessel layer] from becoming progressively leaky. Therefore, reducing inflammation [swelling], immune dysfunction, and susceptibility to infection,” Dr Letson said

The JCU Ethic Committee recently approved the burns research proposal and the laboratory tests are set to be completed in April. The results from the burns management study will be published mid-year.