2nd Jul 2013
Badass Scientist of the Week: Dr Fiona Wood
Fiona Wood (1958–) is a British-Australian plastic surgeon best known for her work in burns care and skin reconstruction. Born in Yorkshire, she studied medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London and worked in various major hospitals before immigrating to Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children in 1987. Here she completed her studies in plastic and reconstructive surgery (in between having four more children) and focused her interests on burns treatments. While treating severe burns patients in the early 1990s, Wood became a pioneer in skin cell transplant technology. Traditionally, treating large burns involves grafting on sheets of cultured skin, which are grown from the patient’s own skin cells, but they usually take up to 21 days to grow. Wood realised that scarring dramatically decreased if the wound was treated within 10 days, so she developed a technique nicknamed “spray-on skin.” The sample skin cells from the patient are cultured in just five days, then sprayed evenly onto the burn area using an aerosol delivery system, where the cells are cultured more quickly than in the lab—the wound actually acts as an ideal culture medium. This leaves much less scarring, and the cells are unlikely to be rejected since they’re from the patient’s own body. When 28 victims of the Bali bombings were urgently flown to Perth in 2002, Wood and her colleagues were well-prepared with this technique—and despite how severe the burns were and how many patients they had to deal with simultaneously, they managed to save 25 of the 28 victims. The spray-on skin technology was adopted around the world, and Wood founded a company called Avita Medical and charity called the Fiona Wood Foundation to research, develop and promote tissue engineering. She received a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003, and became Australian of the Year in 2005. Wood is currently the Director of the Western Australia Burns Service and a consultant plastic surgeon, and is focusing on a way to develop “scarless healing.”

Badass Scientist of the Week: Dr Fiona Wood

Fiona Wood (1958–) is a British-Australian plastic surgeon best known for her work in burns care and skin reconstruction. Born in Yorkshire, she studied medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London and worked in various major hospitals before immigrating to Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children in 1987. Here she completed her studies in plastic and reconstructive surgery (in between having four more children) and focused her interests on burns treatments. While treating severe burns patients in the early 1990s, Wood became a pioneer in skin cell transplant technology. Traditionally, treating large burns involves grafting on sheets of cultured skin, which are grown from the patient’s own skin cells, but they usually take up to 21 days to grow. Wood realised that scarring dramatically decreased if the wound was treated within 10 days, so she developed a technique nicknamed “spray-on skin.” The sample skin cells from the patient are cultured in just five days, then sprayed evenly onto the burn area using an aerosol delivery system, where the cells are cultured more quickly than in the lab—the wound actually acts as an ideal culture medium. This leaves much less scarring, and the cells are unlikely to be rejected since they’re from the patient’s own body. When 28 victims of the Bali bombings were urgently flown to Perth in 2002, Wood and her colleagues were well-prepared with this technique—and despite how severe the burns were and how many patients they had to deal with simultaneously, they managed to save 25 of the 28 victims. The spray-on skin technology was adopted around the world, and Wood founded a company called Avita Medical and charity called the Fiona Wood Foundation to research, develop and promote tissue engineering. She received a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003, and became Australian of the Year in 2005. Wood is currently the Director of the Western Australia Burns Service and a consultant plastic surgeon, and is focusing on a way to develop “scarless healing.”

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