Our Vision

When wounds do not heal
an interview with co-founder Veronika Hruschka

The process of finding a topic for the research group was unorthodox. It started with a series of seminars on citizen participation and the value of empirical knowledge in research. Tissue regeneration researcher and scientific project manager Veronika Hruschka took part in this series of seminars five years ago and has since been a driving force behind the development of the research group. Journalist Marlene Erhart meets her for an interview at the headquarters of the SHoW Group in the AUVA Trauma Center Vienna, Lorenz Böhler.

a. Veronika Hruschka is interviewed by Marlene Erhart

What is SHoW?

SHoW, short for Senescence and Healing of Wounds, is a transdisciplinary group that is looking into aging and wound healing. What is special about it is that the topic is approached from different angles. SHoW includes a biomedical research group as well as a social science project and a co-creation team. In addition, we also deal with fundamental questions about science itself and its interactions with the social and societal environment.

How did the thematic focus come about?

The thematic framework for the SHoW group was defined with the help of an open innovation process. As part of “Tell Us!”, lead by Ben Missbach, we called on people to submit questions broadly related to ​​accidental injuries. We were able to use crowd-sourcing to identify areas in which there is a need for action. In a voting round we then asked about the most important areas. Aging and wound healing were mentioned most frequently. So there is a strong need in society for more research in this area.

How does it feel to meet such a real demand?

It’s a great feeling to see an idea turn into something so big. You can feel that there is a need here in society that has not yet been addressed. I am curious to see how things will continue and what we can achieve.

How will the relevance of the topic develop in the future?

We are noticing that people already have a great need to speak up. Many are affected themselves or know someone in their family who is affected. Chronic wounds become more common with advancing age, especially in connection with other diseases. We have an aging society, so this development will continue in the future and the demand will even increase.

What does senescence mean, what is the problem with it?

Senescence describes the state of a cell in which the natural cell cycle is halted. The cells no longer divide and remain in place. To a certain extent, this cellular senescence is quite normal and good for the wound healing process. The problem arises when these cells are no longer removed by the immune system and begin to accumulate. One goal of the biological platform is to identify the cells that are becoming senescent and, in the best case scenario, to influence them in order to achieve an improved wound healing process.

What are your goals in the co-creation part?

Stakeholders from the field of wound care are included in our work. These are doctors, therapists, nursing staff but also patients and their relatives – they are very familiar with the practice of wound care, but usually have little contact with research. We want to change that.

What are the challenges when entering this uncharted territory?

At first we didn’t know what the status quo was and where the problem was. We are now in the process of identifying all stakeholders and determining where there are gaps and where there is a need for action. The next step is to validate this diagnosis together with stakeholders and to build partnerships.

How could those affected benefit from this approach?

For example, we look at what the endpoints of a therapy could be, whether this is just the wound closure, or whether there are other central factors as well. It is all about improving the quality of life for patients. Maybe a wound stays open, but when the quality of life improves because the wound no longer smells strong or hurts less, that is a very important step forward. In this regard, as part of our research group, we have a social science project in cooperation with Professor Barbara Prainsack from the University of Vienna.

How are chronic wounds treated today?

There is currently no standardized approach. There are many different groups affected and involved. We want to find out about the various treatment processes and and how they could be controlled according to the treatment goal instead of the treatment process.

Do you know how many people suffer from non-healing wounds?

Not exactly. The problem is that wounds often appear as part of or as a concomitant effect of other diseases and are not really recorded. Of course, it would be good to know how many people are affected. That is one aspect that we will turn to.

What do you wish for the future of the research group?

That the group will establish itself in the field and continue to exist beyond four years. I would especially like our concept of openness and interdisciplinary cooperation to prove itself in practice and to be taken up by other organizations.