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Native plants may hold the key to healing wounds


Brigid Veale
10 December 2010
Common plants such as marigold could hold the key to dealing with chronic wounds, which affect almost half a million Australians and cost around $2.6 billion to the health system annually.

Southern Cross University is part of the Wound Management Innovation Co-operative Research Centre (CRC), set up in July to address key challenges in wound healing, improve quality-of-life for people with wounds, provide cost-effective wound care and ease the burden on the health system.

Dr Hans Wohlmuth is leading a Southern Cross University research team, which will conduct key research into the potential of plants, including native Australian plants, for use in wound healing and wound care.

"Through Southern Cross Plant Science we will be identifying and isolating active plant compounds that can assist in wound management," Dr Wohlmuth said.

"There is a lot of information about plants that have been used traditionally in dealing with wounds. Many hundreds of plants have been recorded as having wound healing properties in different cultures, and one of our first tasks will be to look through the literature and see what has been recorded."

Dr Wohlmuth said marigold (Calendula officinalis) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) were among the common plants known for their wound-healing properties.

"In collaboration with the University of South Australia, we will be screening a large number of plants for anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Initially we will be screening crude extracts of the plants to see if they show promise. Then we will try to isolate and characterise the active chemical compounds, which subsequently might be used in new types of wound dressings, for example.

"We have plant compound and extract libraries that we will be utilising and we will also be sourcing Australian native plants and plants from around the world."

Marigold, or Calendula officinalis, is among the common plants known for their wound-healing properties.The Wound Management Innovation CRC involves participation from 22 industry and university partners and around 60 equivalent full-time researchers. A total of more than $100 million will be invested by the Australian Government and participants over the next eight years.

"This is a significant research undertaking which has the potential to provide new approaches to wound healing, new therapies and dressings and best practice in wound care," Dr Wohlmuth said.

"More than 50 per cent of community nursing care involves wound care, and with our ageing population it will become an increasing health issue. Southern Cross University is excited at the opportunity to be part of this major project which has the potential to make such a big difference in our health system and for the many individuals who suffer from chronic wounds."

PhD students are needed for the project. Interested persons with a suitable background (e.g. chemistry, pharmacology, biomedical science) should email [email protected].

Photo: Dr Hans Wohlmuth is leading a Southern Cross University research team which is looking at the potential of plants for use in wound healing and wound care.