The New Science Behind Developing Novel Dressings for Emergency Burn Care
Dr. Ronan P. Murphy PhD
School of Health & Human Performance
Faculty of Science and Health
Dublin City University
Glasnevin, Dublin 9
The integrity and function of our skin, the largest organ of the body is critical for
health, well-being and life. Damage to this complex and integrated tissue – an organ of the
integumentary system comprised of multiple layers of ectodermal tissue and cell types is a
major cause of morbidity and mortality. Human skin is prone to damage from multiple
sources including – microorganisms, mechanical, sun and chemical factors. One of the
most serious injuries to this cutaneous protective layer is caused by burns. Despite
advances in therapeutic strategies for the management of patients with severe burns, the
sequelae are pathophysiologically and psychologically profound, up to the systemic and
Burn wounds lead to and initiate various local and systemic processes in the body,
including an inflammatory process associated with the release of cytokines. Therefore, the
study of the molecular, cellular and physiological bases of burn wound healing will lead to
more effective and targeted therapeutic and management modalities. In adverse
conditions with limited resources, efficient triage, stabilisation, and rapid transfer to a
specialised intensive care burn centre is necessary to provide optimal outcomes. This
initial lag time and the form of primary treatment initiated, from injury to specialist care (i.e.
pre-hospital and pre-surgery), is crucial for the burn patient.
In a forthcoming article in Burns Journal, the official journal of the International
Society for Burns Injuries (ISBI), our group utilised novel integrated cell, molecular and
physiological approaches to develop and investigate the efficacy of a novel visco-elastic
burn dressing (WJ24) with a proprietary bio-stimulatory marine mineral complex (MXC) as
a primary care treatment*. This new versatile emergency burn dressing (EBD) saturated in
a >90% translucent water-based, sterile, oil-free gel and carrying a unique marine mineral
complex (MXC) was demonstrated to initiate a healthy healing process and microcidal
environment prior to specialist care and burns surgery.
The dressings efficacy was tested using LabSkin as a burn model platform.
LabSkin is a novel cellular 3D-dermal full thickness human skin equivalent, incorporating
fully-differentiated dermal and epidermal components that functionally models human skin,
giving clinically relevant data and results. Cell and molecular analysis were also carried
out as well as hydration, tissue barrier and integrity as well as thermal/cooling analysis.
The WJ24 emergency burn dressing was hypoallergenic and improved the barrier function
of skin resulting in increased hydration up to 24 hours. It was demonstrated to effectively
initiate cooling upon application, limiting the continuous burn effect and preventing local
tissue from necrosis (i.e. limiting tissue loss in the coagulation zone and preserving tissue
in the zone of stasis). Wound healing pathways were stimulated, and fibrosis/scarring
pathways were abrogated. Interestingly, WJ24+MXC was demonstrated to stimulate new
blood vessel formation and growth – pivotal to optimal burn wound recovery and healing.
These results were consistent out to 48 hours.
Using WJ24 emergency burn dressing as primary management is an effective and
easily applicable treatment in cases of burn injury, proving both a cooling and hydrating
environment for the wound. It regulates inflammation and promotes healing in preparation
for specialised secondary burn wound management. Moreover, it promotes a healthy
remodelling phenotype that may potentially mitigate scarring as a well as supporting new
blood vessel formation. Based on our findings, this WJ24+MXC is ideal for use in all
pre-hospital, pre-surgical and resource limited environments.
* Development of Dynamic Cell and Organotypic Skin Models, for the Investigation of a
Novel Viscoelastic Burns Treatment Using Molecular and Cellular Approaches. Robert G.
Wallace, Mary-Rose Kenealy, Aidan J. Brady, Emer Duffy, Bernard Degryse, Gerardene
Meade-Murphy, Marc-Antoine Custaud, Aoife Morrin, Ronan P. Murphy. Burns (Journal of
the International Society for Burns Injuries). Available online 14 May 2020,