Pressure Ulcers: A Translational and Comparative Medical Approach at Discovering a Successful Treatment

Author: Holly Morrison
Major: Environmental Studies, Biology
Approved: Spring 2017
Status: Completed

Pressure ulcers (PUs), commonly known as bedsores, result from a wide variety of diseases and are deemed preventable, yet there currently is no foolproof treatment regimen for this expensive and painful condition. The U.S. healthcare system devotes nearly $11 billion annually or roughly between $37,800 and $70,000 per pressure ulcer to manage (1). Aside from the pain associated with PUs, other implications include sepsis, osteomyelitis, squamous cell carcinoma, and premature death (2). PUs occur in humans and animals alike, making them a relevant subject for translational medicine and comparative medicine. My proposal joins this larger synergetic effort between veterinary medicine and human medicine to find a novel, effective treatment plan for PUs. I will research current human medical approaches and veterinary approaches to PUs, test and create a new mechanical aid to reduce the pressure in wound sites in an affected equine study population. Commonly, PUs arise as a secondary complication in horses with chronic hoof problems. In collaboration with veterinarians at the world-renowned Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and equine podiatry rehabilitation center Notch Hill Farm, I will test several different mechanical aids on patients to reduce pressure, which will help prevent the formation of PUs and be a more effective treatment. In additional to exploring the mechanics of PUs, I will also examine the microbial component of PUs. Bacteria collected from these wounds will be cultured and DNA sequenced to better understand PUs on a microbial level. DNA research on peptic ulcers suggests that certain ulcers and wounds produce specific microbiomes, which could be relevant to treatment strategies.