Tissue explant (ex-vivo) models to reproduce burn injuries, streamlining pre-clinical treatment strategies

Wiktor Pilch1, Ainslie Derrick-Roberts1, Allison Cowin1, Xanthie Strudwick1,
1Future Industries Institute – University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


Burns are a common injury sustained in the paediatric population. Their treatment is complicated by life-threatening bacterial infections and scarring, leading to the loss of limb function without surgical intervention. Preclinical models are vital tools for assessing efficacy and safety of new products intended for the clinical management of burns before translation to the clinic. The use of ex vivo explant cultures utilises discarded skin which can be cultured and analysed in the laboratory to further understand the outcome on burn injury with various therapies.

We have been developing novel dressings called Plasma Activated Hydrogel Therapy (PAHT) which can improve many aspects of burn injury, including infection control, healing promotion and reduced scarring.

The generation of more robust ex vivo methods can be used to develop new burn treatment technologies. This reduces animal usage with optimised treatments evaluated in ex vivo explants prior to in vivo burn models. This study has created reproducible burns in mouse and human ex vivo explants. Heated rods and boiling water create thermal, contact and scald burns with a range of reproducible burns from mild to deep tissue burns, recreating the same cellular changes in the skin to what is seen in live-mouse burn models previously used by our laboratory.
These explants are isolated and cultured at air-liquid-interface both with and without infection to model wound healing and evaluate treatments which can be characterised with viability and histological markers (cell proliferation and apoptosis) and bacterial load and microscopic healing effects.

The use of mouse and human skin explants side-by-side will allow development of complex explants models vital for clinical translation of therapeutic burn injury and incorporating infection and testing of therapies prior to whole animal trials. This is vital for clinical translation of this and future therapies in burn injury, including out novel PAHT dressings.


Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Registrar with an interest in Burns Surgery working at the Royal Hobart Hospital encompassing the Statewide Burns Service. Previous research associate at the Future Industries Institute in South Australia