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Wound and Keloid Scarring Translational

The Wound and Keloid Scarring (WAKS) Translational Research Unit is extramural unit based at the University of Cape Town. The unit seeks to optimise tissue culture models for dermal wound healing after injury.

Key focus areas

  • To optimize tissue culture models for cutaneous wound healing with focus on keloid scarring, in order to provide a closer representation of the human skin scarring condition (three-dimensional so called ‘scar in a jar’ models) compared to the current 2D culturing methods of dermal fibroblasts.
  • To investigate the effects of specific candidate genes of interest in cutaneous healing through a series of knockdown/neutralizing/peptide addition of the gene/s in both cell and tissue specific keloid models (organoid, organotypic and organ culture models of keloid scars).
  • To investigate biomechanics of wound healing initially through the development of a computational model that would examine the biomechanical responses of normal skin, fibrotic scars and keloids followed and validated by in vitro 3D models.
  • To show the effects of specific pharmaceutical compounds on target genes implicated in keloid scarring in relevant models. If the compounds are safe and effective, they can potentially be considered for use and evaluation in future clinical human keloid scar trials.
  • To conduct human trials in order to identify biomarkers (genes and proteins) that are highly dysregulated within specific sites in sequential temporal keloid scar biopsies using a focused approach with laser capture microscopy of lesional site-specific wound and keloid scar tissue



Prof Nonhlanhla Khumalo
Unit Director
  • +27 21 4043376