Tag Archives: tissue repair

‘WOUND’ – Multi-omics translational research for delayed-healing wounds

We applied for a NWO perspectief research grant in order to bring wound care to this century.

In the Netherlands over 400.000 patients suffer from delayed-healing wounds. This creates a personal, but also societal burden, of 3.2 billion Euros. This will grow due to increase of elderly individuals in the Netherlands, likewise in the rest of the world.

In 2013, the National Health Care Institute classified complex wounds as a separate condition (or self-contained process). However, wound care didn’t advance much last century. Current focus is on fighting symptoms, like pain and infections. The right challenge however is to elucidate the underlying pathology and find key parameters that make the wound refrain from healing and can function as (bio)markers to control the quality of selected care. They are a starting point for discovering new treatment modalities and the direct application of available, but not yet applied, treatment modalities.

This program breaks away from the conventional approach by combining leading scientific institutes, key clinical wound care professionals and the relevant users in one consortium. We will harness the latest developments from the fields of systems biology, metabolomics, proteomics, genomics, medical- and data analysis. This enables quick implementation and valorisation of the outcomes towards predictive analysis & diagnosis, personalised interventions and innovative tools for clinicians and patients. Such as point of care diagnostic tools and direct application of a novel wound treatment approach, like anti-biofilm or complement modulation therapies.

We identified three R&D lines:

1.Predictive personalized diagnosis; Multiplex omics- and data analysis strategies will reveal early determinators of patient’s wound healing and starting points for development of personalized treatment modalities.

2. Evaluation and quantification of treatment efficiency; Identify biomolecules through a.o. omics that predict treatment efficiency and disclose key factors for improved healing.

3. Identification, research and demonstrations of new interventions and treatments; Interplay between microbiome and immunomodulation will enable novel treatments such as anti-biofilm or anti-complement therapy.


Societal challenges (MU)

This program has a perfect fit with the MU ‘Health and healthcare’. It will deliver predictive tools for clinicians, to be continued in targeted personal treatments which can be either preventive, either curative or both. This enables patients to re-participate sooner, or at all, in our society. Since the consortium also consists of a large group of clinicians and users, we can guarantee a fast implementation trajectory for the tools and outcome of this program. This also makes this program an export generator; since the largest amount of e.g. diabetes patients is to be found in the Americas.


  • University of Amsterdam (UvA), Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences – main applicant
  • ErasmusMC, Research Unit Plastic Surgery
  • University of Twente, Medical Cell Biophysics
  • Amsterdam UMC, Plastic Surgery
  • TUDelft, Chemical engineering


  • MeanderMC, Surgery
  • IsalaMC, Surgery
  • IkaziaMC, Surgery
  • AlrijneMC, Wound centre
  • Assocation of Dutch Burns Centres
  • MST, Surgery
  • Davinci clinics
  • TNO
  • Dutch Optics Centre


  • BioMedServ BV
  • ICap BV
  • VyCAP BV
  • Biocrates Life Sciences AG
  • CZ
  • Zilveren Kruis
  • Menzis
  • VGZ

Key Enabling Technologies (KET)

The KET’s this program addresses are 1) BioTechnology 2) Quantum- and Nanotechnology and 3) Photonics, both with strong links to 4) ICT. For BioTechnology, the chemistry of (complex) wound care is on large parts terra incognita. The program is an example of an integral system biological approach for health where we explicitly use the ‘Omics’ part.

Digital technologies will enable us to harvest, classify and interpret the data from analysis and for diagnosis, as well as for further development of tools and products. Enriched with quantum- and nanotechnologies, one of the proposed outcomes will be an analytic technique for rapid medical analysis of small blood, fluid and tissue samples.

For Photonics, the program will deliver techniques to perform diagnosis with non-invasive photonic hand held devices and advanced image capturing techniques for early diagnostics, such as novel light therapies for wound treatment with a digital therapy assistant.

Public meeting:  

A public meeting will be held on November 18, at the UV

A. Please contact us for more information.

Contact information:  

Drs. Harm Jaap Smit,  nlhjs@biomedserv.com,  +31 6 45444310

(Prof. dr. A.K. (Age) Smilde, A.K.Smilde@uva.nl, 0205255062)

The Harm Scale

Caroline Fife suggested I should publish a simple scale for tissue damage and call it the “Harm Scale”.

Here it is.

Analysing wounds requires to have a look at it at five levels, from the molecule up to the social environment of the patient. To understand events in wounded cells and tissue, it is important to realise that cells and tissues have a range of states related to damage. The linguistic problem is that damage is considered as, well, damage but in reality, cell and tissue damage ranges from no damage to death. Therefore, perhaps, we may refer to the scale as loss of homeostasis. Here the normal state means there is no loss of homeostasis, and the dead state means there is a maximum loss of homeostasis. This also makes sense because the body considers homeostasis the optimum and any loss of homeostasis will evoke a reaction. But the easiest option is, as Caroline pointed out, to use the word harm, which can be seen as a measure of loss of homeostasis.

What is harm?

Harm stands for how much problems a cell or a tissue has in its normal function.

Logically a cell or tissue can be in six states of harm:

  1. Normal,
  2. Adapted,
  3. Stressed,
  4. Injured,
  5. Damaged,
  6. Dead.


Normal is the normal state, where the cell or a tissue is well adapted to the circumstances and it is able to fulfil its required role. Here, the cell and tissue are in a state homoeostasis.

Adapted, if there are changes in the environment, cells or tissue adapt by changing its anatomy, physiology or behaviour. Adaptation causes cells and tissues to communicate their changed state with their environment, and the body detects those signals (Pakos‐Zebrucka et al. 2016; Erguler, Pieri, and Deltas 2013)

Stressed, when the changes lead to problems in the cells or tissue’s anatomy, physiology or behaviour becomes stressed. Here it is no longer able to fulfil all its activities normally. Stressed cells and tissues start sending out distress signals like reactive oxygen species, HIF-1a and other signals (Andreeva et al. 2015; Bohovych and Khalimonchuk 2016). These signals are not only detected by the body but some signals can also be detected in laboratory analysis (Görlach et al. 2015; Pichu et al. 2018).

Injured, if the changes have led to small-scale damage, like a leaking cell membrane or tissue damage, problems can begin to arise. Leaking for instance ATP and calcium through membranes and other forms of damage (DAMPS) are interpreted as unwelcome events (Horn and Jaiswal 2018; Tang and Marshall 2017). This implies that the signals resulting from cell and/or tissue injury may already elicit an inflammatory response (Jagannathan and Tucker-Kellogg 2016; Rathinam and Chan 2018). Often injury may be repaired, allowing for full regeneration.

Damaged, if the resultant harm has led to irreversible, yet non-lethal, damage, there are inevitable consequences. For example, loss of a limb, may not kill you, but it will reduce your functionality. The body will detect damage and respond. It might do so by apoptosis, the controlled killing of damaged cells (Karch and Molkentin 2015). IApart from liver or skin tissue, full regeneration of damage is not an option. Here the negative consequence of fibrotic repair can take place (Whyte, Smith, and Helms 2012; Greaves et al. 2013; Nyström and Bruckner-Tuderman 2018).

Dead, a dead cell is, well … dead. If a dead cell or tissue is not cleaned up properly, but is destructed instead, it’s organelles and DNA function as a danger signal, the so-called DAMP’s (danger associated molecular patterns) invoking inflammation and other tissue repair or regeneration processes (Pandolfi et al. 2016; Maslanik et al. 2013).

The Harm Scale has dimensions of level, size and time. A single cell moving up the Harm Scale, does not imply that the tissue containing that cell is also adapted, injured or damaged. The tissue it is in,  might very well be in perfect homeostasis. However, if more cells in the tissue start to get damaged or die, in time the tissue itself may start moving on the Harm Scale. And similarly, if a tissue is moving up the Harm Scale does not mean your body or parts of it are damaged.

Nevertheless, an inflammatory response is always imminent, inflammation is good but at the price of remaining scars, even at the molecular level (Fulop et al. 2018). Chronic inflammation is a source for age-related disease. (Franceschi et al. 2018)

So, even if harm doesn’t necessarily lead to direct damage, even little harm may cause problems over time in the li=ong run (Ashcroft, Mills, and Ashworth 2002).


Why is this important?

The body detects and responds to any deviation from homeostasis and will react to regain homeostasis. If the reaction is insufficient, the tissue damage will increase in size and magnitude and cause serious problems for the patient.

If you consider most non-traumatic wounds result from an underlying condition, the Harm Scale begins to make sense. It draws attention to the pre-clinical events which impact the clinical events to follow. If the harm is not handled properly, you are setting up your topical treatment for failure.

Flatly, if you fail to recognise the obstructed vessel, your dressing is not going to do much.

Even stressed cells may already have an impaired ability to handle harm, this condition may worsen if the harm moves up the scale. If the surrounding cells or tissues are in a grave state, the situation can spiral out of control, like in the case of skin failure at the end of life (Levine 2016).

Recognising the existence of harmed tissue highlights how a patient, who does not yet have a wound, might still suffer enough from harm to develop a wound in the near future. Or even worse, a closed wound does not mean there is no tissue damage, setting the stage for recurrence.

Neglecting the level of harm in tissue, can cause to you take action which may result in an avoidable lesion. (Black et al. 2011)

The Harm Scale also points out that, not only the tissue in the wound but also the cells and tissue surrounding the wound may be harmed, impairing the ability to repair or regenerate tissue. In general, it will be safe to say that processes, like proliferation, will take place outside the wound, even perhaps outside of the inflamed zone (Park et al. 2017). This means that the quality of the surrounding tissue plays an important role in the wound healing process.

Figure 1 Schematic representation of harm in and outside the wound.

In this paper we treat the Harm Scale at level 2 of the Five Level Model for Wound Analysis and Treatment. The five level model is a system to describe factors influencing the cause and resolution of wounds at a normal (0), general (1), local (2), systemic (3) and cellular-molecular (4) level. The levels represent a connection between where problems occur and common clinical and scientific practice. (Smit 2018)

Level 2 is local, the level of the wound. However, the Harm Scale also exists at other levels, examples are:

  • Level 1; inflammaging (Chen et al. 2014),
  • Level 3; organ-system damage (San Miguel-Ruiz and García-Arrarás 2007) and
  • Level 4; (epigenetic) DNA damage (Nanduri, Semenza, and Prabhakar 2017; Jasiulionis 2018).

Using the Harm Scale at all 5 levels opens up the possibility of making use of preventive and curative toolkits used in other types of tissue damage like renal, brain or heart damage. It also allows us to make use of the insights from inflammation research, like inflammaging (Castellani et al. 2016).


How the Harm Scale can help.

In today’s wound care we only casually touch on the subject of tissue damage, because the most used solution for a wound is a dressing. The Harm Scale may help us in evaluating tissue in, under and around wounds.

Having some kind of definition of harm will improve communication on the complexities of the state tissues and cells are in. Acquiring a better understanding of the level of harm in tissue allows us for assessment and modalities to maintain homeostasis.

It may be helpful to notice that, though adapted, stressed, injured and damaged cells signal their harm state to their environment, the body can under- or over-react. If the patient is compromised these early signals may be missed, masking what is really happening. On the other hand, if injured, damaged and dead cells invoke a dramatic response, this in itself, may spiral out of control in a compromised patient.

The Harm Scale is also helpful in determining where to inject growth factors, miRNA’s and other interventions. Zones in which cells are barely surviving maybe not the best place for your intervention. You have to locate the proper location in, around and under the wound for a (maximal) effect (Berlanga et al. 2013).

Perhaps, if we start diagnosing and treating issues which reduce the body’s ability to repair or regenerate tissue, we might find better ways to predict and/or prevent wounds. A Harm Scale type assessment can be a useful addition to the toolbox.

And in the process, we will learn how to achieve much better results from our current treatment modalities.

© Harm Smit (2018)

Ps. It is really weird, writing a text like this when your name is … Harm.



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Erguler, Kamil, Myrtani Pieri, and Constantinos Deltas. 2013. “A Mathematical Model of the Unfolded Protein Stress Response Reveals the Decision Mechanism for Recovery, Adaptation and Apoptosis.” BMC Systems Biology 7: 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-0509-7-16.

Franceschi, Claudio, Paolo Garagnani, Paolo Parini, Cristina Giuliani, and Aurelia Santoro. 2018. “Inflammaging: A New Immune–metabolic Viewpoint for Age-Related Diseases.” Nature Reviews Endocrinology. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-018-0059-4.

Fulop, Tamas, Anis Larbi, Gilles Dupuis, Aurélie Le Page, Eric H. Frost, Alan A. Cohen, Jacek M. Witkowski, and Claudio Franceschi. 2018. “Immunosenescence and Inflamm-Aging As Two Sides of the Same Coin: Friends or Foes?” Frontiers in Immunology 8 (January). https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01960.

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Greaves, Nicholas S., Kevin J. Ashcroft, Mohamed Baguneid, and Ardeshir Bayat. 2013. “Current Understanding of Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms in Fibroplasia and Angiogenesis during Acute Wound Healing.” Journal of Dermatological Science 72 (3): 206–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.07.008.

Horn, Adam, and Jyoti K. Jaiswal. 2018. “Cellular Mechanisms and Signals That Coordinate Plasma Membrane Repair.” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, no. 0123456789. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-018-2888-7.

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Karch, Jason, and Jeffery D. Molkentin. 2015. “Regulated Necrotic Cell Death: The Passive Aggressive Side of Bax and Bak.” Circulation Research 116 (11): 1800–1809. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.305421.

Levine, Jeffrey M. 2016. “Skin Failure: An Emerging Concept.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 17 (7): 666–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2016.03.014.

Maslanik, Thomas, Lucas Mahaffey, Kate Tannura, Lida Beninson, Benjamin N. Greenwood, and Monika Fleshner. 2013. “The Inflammasome and Danger Associated Molecular Patterns (DAMPs) Are Implicated in Cytokine and Chemokine Responses Following Stressor Exposure.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 28: 54–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2012.10.014.

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Rathinam, Vijay A.K., and Francis Ka Ming Chan. 2018. “Inflammasome, Inflammation, and Tissue Homeostasis.” Trends in Molecular Medicine xx (3): 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmed.2018.01.004.

San Miguel-Ruiz, José E., and José E. García-Arrarás. 2007. “Common Cellular Events Occur during Wound Healing and Organ Regeneration in the Sea Cucumber Holothuria Glaberrima.” BMC Developmental Biology 7: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-213X-7-115.

Smit, Harm Jaap. 2018. “A Five-Level Model for Wound Analysis and Treatment.” Wounds UK 14 (4): 24–29. https://www.wounds-uk.com/journals/issue/548/article-details/five-level-model-wound-analysis-and-treatment.

Tang, Sindy K Y, and Wallace F Marshall. 2017. “Self-Repairing Cells: How Single Cells Heal Membrane Ruptures and Restore Lost Structures.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 356 (6342): 1022–25. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aam6496.

Whyte, J. L., a. a. Smith, and J. a. Helms. 2012. “Wnt Signaling and Injury Repair.” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology 4 (8): a008078–a008078. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a008078.

Ps. It is really weird, writing a text like this when your name is … Harm.


Morgen weer een training

Morgen mag ik weer een training voor de Buurtzorg verpleegkundigen verzorgen. Mijn taak is om ze in te leiden in de biologie van de wondgeneeskunde. Het is een enorme uitdaging om in een paar uur (gelukkig is die tijd er) niet alleen uit te leggen wat er gebeurt (4 fasen) maar ook hoe en waarom het gaat zoals het gaat. Gelukkig kan dat ook zonder al te veel wis-, natuur- en scheikunde. Maar dan nog is het veel en ingewikkeld.

Met een bredere wetenschappelijke inleiding krijgen ze een inkijkje in wat er werkelijk gebeurt in een complexe wond en kunnen ze uitleggen (en berekenen) waarom de de effecten van bijvoorbeeld topicale wondbehandeling niet of zelden aantoonbaar zijn in de praktijk (de schijnbare Cochrane vs Winter paradox). Dat leert je meteen ook wat je wel kunt doen en erger nog, wat je zou willen doen maar wat niet kan.

Ik hoop dat ze begrijpen hoe ze de effectiviteit van hun handelen kunnen verbeteren, al was het maar om de effectiviteit van “vochtig behandelen” en andere interventies te verhogen.

Het is een inleiding, het is basale wetenschap van de wondgenezing, ik kan in een halve dag niet iemand van “verbandplakker”(en dat deze studenten zeker niet, heb ik gemerkt) tot “wondbehandelaar” transformeren. Het is lastige stof en een andere manier van denken. Dat is tijdens de training nog te volgen maar ik weet dat het daarna lastig wordt. Ingewikkelde zaken zo uitleggen dat men het snapt en onthoudt is lastig maar ik probeer het wel, met vallen en opstaan, omdat ik denk dat het nodig is.


Harm jaap

P.s. laat nog even weten wat volgens jou een verpleegkundige, medicus, paramedicus of een andere professional zou moeten kunnen en weten om wonden te mogen behandelen.