Healing Wounds for Diabetic Patients

UROP @ ARMI | Natasha Qazi

Having an open wound which doesn’t heal for years is the reality for many people, often diabetics, living with chronic ulcers and slow-healing wounds. Patients need treatment over several years, which makes it extremely expensive, both for the healthcare system and the patients who are continually going in and out of hospital.

Twelve Australians develop diabetes every hour. While the annual healthcare cost for a diabetic person without associated complications can be up to $4,000, complications, such as slow-healing wounds, can increase the cost to $16,000.

Researcher, Natasha Qazi, who works in a team at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) as her UROP placement, is investigating growth factors and how they bind to heal tissues. Growth factors speed up wound healing processes, but as therapeutics they don’t last long inside the human body. Natasha is attempting to extend the half-life of growth factors and therefore enhance their ability to heal wounds in diabetic patients.

Together with her supervisors, Dr Mikaël Martino and Dr Ziad Julier, at the ARMI Martino Lab, Natasha’s goal is to modify these growth factors, in a hope to end the suffering of Australians with diabetes.

However, it’s not a simple task. Trial and error is a large part of Natasha’s daily activity in her laboratory, but she enjoys the challenge. She says “if something’s gone wrong, which it often does, troubleshoot, fix it, try again, and repeat the next week”.

The UROP program gives undergraduate students first-hand experience in research.

Natasha chose to ignore her initial impressions and fears of what it meant to be a researcher. She learned that there was a lot more collaboration involved than she had first thought, which helped her to have as she says, “a more positive outlook on research” overall. The experience has helped give her piece of mind, knowing that she is on the right track towards her future goals.

Natasha is in her third and final year of her biomedical sciences degree and wants to continue her research in her current field of work by doing an honours year with ARMI. So far, her experiments have only been conducted in vitro in the lab, but she hopes they can progress through to animal studies, and finally human models, as she continues her way through academia.

Article by Melbourne University Masters students Novitasari Ateng, Soumya Mukherjee and Christina Hatzis

Find out more about BioMedVic’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) here.

(L-R) Soumya Mukherjee, Natasha Qazi, Christina Hatzis and Novitasari Ateng