Oddfellows continue fundraising for medical research at Bradford Burns Unit

The Oddfellows has awarded researchers at The University of Bradford a grant of £88,000 over three years to unlock the mystery of how hair follicles can help chronic burns victims in their recovery.

Surgeons have long recognised that serious burn wounds heal more readily if they are in an area of the body that grows hair, but little is known about why.

Professor Des Tobin, Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences at the University’s Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit, said: “With the exception of our teeth, which we get two sets of, hair follicles are the only structure in our body to go on regenerating throughout adulthood. This powerful capacity makes them fascinating to scientific research in general, but it has ground-breaking potential in the context of wound healing in particular.”

He continued: “We already know that wounds occurring on areas with vigorous hair growth – whether arm, leg, chest or head ­– heal much quicker than hair-poor skin. It is hoped by investigating why and how this occurs we can better understand the needs of the optimal wound-healing environment and make a real difference to those suffering with severe non-healing wounds and burns.” 

Members of the Huddersfield and Bradford branches proposed the project after they heard about the work of scientists at the burns unit.

The unit was formed in the immediate aftermath of the Bradford City Stadium fire in May 1985 in which 54 Bradford City and two Lincoln City fans died and 358 others were injured. It is now one of the world’s leading fire injury research centres.  

The project will also explore how the treatment of wounds for those with diabetes can be improved. Professor Tobin, said: “There is a real gap in our knowledge of how blood sugar levels affect the skin’s capacity to heal, making the outcomes of this project uniquely important for those affected by the condition.”

The donated money will come from the H A Andrews Memorial Fund – a fund set up in 1971 in honour of Herbert Arthur Andrews, a former Oddfellows Secretary who was an instrumental figure in the creation of the National Insurance Scheme that was a precursor to the launch of the NHS.

Oddfellows members have raised all the money in the fund, and will help the Society meet its commitment to the project.

CEO of the Oddfellows, Jane Nelson, and Chairman of the Oddfellows, Tony Luckett, presented a cheque, the second instalment of £88,000, to Professor Des Tobin and research leader Anisa Hanif at Bradford City Football Club.

They were joined by a group of fundraisers who had just cycled 130 miles from Liverpool to Leeds to raise money in memory of two local friends – Paul Beards and Stephen Benn – who both died in the last year, aged just 43.

Paul was a lifelong, passionate Bradford City fan and was in the stand where the fire started that day.

Jane Nelson, said: “The Oddfellows has funded more than £850,000 worth of medical research since we launched the H A Andrews Memorial Fund. We chose this project over many others because of the impact we think it could have on thousands of people around the world who are tragically affected by fire. In the year of the Grenfell disaster, this work seems as important as ever.”

As the research unfolds over the next three years, the findings will be discussed by the scientific community through papers and at a variety of conferences. In the long term it is hoped that the results will influence the way non-healing wounds are treated for years to come.

“Giving back is what our Society is all about,” said Jane Nelson, Oddfellows Chief Executive Officer. “We’re delighted that our grant will be put to such good use and look forward to seeing the results in three years’ time.”

“The potential for this project is huge, and we are incredibly grateful to the Oddfellows for their extremely generous donation,” added Prof. Tobin. “Without the Society, not to mention the effort of individual members and donors to raise such an astonishing amount, the project would not have been able to go ahead – thank you.”

For more information on the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU), please visit: https://www.bradford.ac.uk/research/rkt-centres/plastic-surgery-burns-research-unit/.