Leading Flii research flying towards healing chronic wounds

Professor Allison Cowin

The same gene which enables flies to fly could hold the answer to healing chronic wounds.

Professor Cowin is developing the world’s first human therapeutic antibody for the cytoskeletal protein Flii also known as ‘Flightless I,’ which has been found to improve wound healing. This medical advancement is game-changing for the treatment of wounds and is particularly valuable for children with the debilitating rare skin condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB).

The Flii protein was first discovered by geneticists studying fruit flies who found that by removing this particular protein flies could no longer fly, hence the name Flightless. Further studies showed that the protein is present in humans. Professor Cowin went on to study Flightless I in more depth and discovered that the human body produces high levels of the protein in wounds.

Professor Cowin developed a Flii neutralising antibody which is delivered to wounds in the form of a cream. Her team tested the antibody across different types of wounds, including diabetic ulcers and burns, and found that the antibody is effective in reducing the amount of Flii and improving wound healing.

Professor Cowin is harnessing her skin healing expertise to help children with the condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB). This rare disease, which typically affects babies, toddlers and young children, results in extremely fragile skin that can be damaged at the slightest touch. Because the skin is so delicate, painful blisters and wounds frequently form and those suffering from dystrophic EB, the most severe kind, experience blistering inside and out, in places such as the mouth, stomach, oesophagus, and bladder. There is no treatment or cure for the condition, with daily wound care, pain management and protective bandaging being the only options available to improve the quality of EB patients’ often short lives.

Professor Cowin and her team are progressing towards humanisation and clinical trials, two crucial steps in bringing the antibody to market.