Report on the 2002 Annual Meeting of The Wound Healing Society

Patricia A. Hebda, PhD

The Wound Healing Society (WHS) held its annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, May 28 through June 1, 2002. This year’s meeting was a joint conference with the European Tissue Repair Society (ETRS) with scientific and educational programs designed to “Discover Emerging Research Critical to the Future of Wound Care.” The conference venue at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor provided a comfortable, centralized environment conducive to both formal and informal interactions among the more than 475 attendees and 19 exhibiting corporations.

The overall program design included morning plenary sessions and keynote presentations, industry-sponsored luncheon scientific symposia, afternoon concurrent sessions and poster viewing, and evening informal interactions and social gatherings. In addition, the Society held a one-day educational symposium on basic wound care, for healthcare professionals based in the Baltimore region. As in past years, the WHS was able to present young investigator awards through generous industrial donations to the Wound Healing Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization established by the WHS to improve the quality of wound care through the promotion and support of research and education. During this year’s joint meeting, the young investigator recipients of Wound Healing Foundation awards and awards granted through the ETRS presented their impressive research during special plenary sessions. Award recipients are listed on the Society’s website (see below).

The three keynote speakers gave excellent in-depth overviews: William A. Haseltine, PhD, chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., spoke on “Genomics: A Source of New Healing Medicines.” His vision includes the application of gene-based therapies for regenerative medicine, and he gave several examples of promising lines of investigation, including the development of means to regulate programmed cell death as a way to control exuberant tissue metabolism, such as wound fibrosis. Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, spoke on “Regulation of Oxygen Homeostasis by Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1.” Dr. Semenza discussed the significant role of oxygen (and hypoxia) in stimulating the wound healing response; his research focuses on oxygen homeostasis and the cell signal transduction pathway activated by tissue hypoxia. Mark Ferguson, MD, professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, and current president of the ETRS gave the third keynote presentation, entitled “From Lab to Clinic: Advances in the Prevention of Scarring.” Dr. Ferguson shared his perspective of current research in and clinical management of scarring; he believes that a key feature of scarring involves the regulation of members of the transforming growth factor beta family, namely TGF-b1 and TGF-b3.

The plenary sessions covered a broad range of basic and clinical topics, such as “Repair in Different Tissues” (other than skin), “Optimizing Outcomes for Burn Repair,” “Reactive Oxygen Species in Wound Repair,” and “Pathogenesis and Treatment of Chronic Wounds.” A rather unusual but highly thought-provoking session was the “Point-Counterpoint Debates” on three more-or-less debatable questions: whether growth factors have made an impact on clinical wound care, whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy contributes to wound healing, and whether wound closure is the only valid endpoint for demonstrating clinical efficacy of wound healing products. The highly spirited exchange between the two debaters for each topic inspired additional lively discussion from the audience, and no one sustained injuries.

One pearl of the meeting was the presentation by Susan Opalenik, PhD, the 2001 recipient of the Wound Healing Foundation Fellowship entitled “The Kinetic Contribution of Bone Marrow-Derived Cells to Healing Cutaneous Wounds.” Among the results presented by Dr. Opalenik was the finding that bone-marrow derived stem cells found in the circulatory system, called fibrocytes, migrate to sites of wounding and participate in the wound healing response. In her study of age-impaired wound healing in animal models, she found that fibrocytes appeared sooner in the wound site of young animals and that wound inflammation was delayed in aged animals, both of which may significantly affect the overall wound healing response with aging.

Space limitations make it impossible to cover the entire meeting, so readers are invited to visit the WHS webpage for additional information about the meeting, the Society, and the Foundation ( Abstracts are published in the March/April 2002 issue of Wound Repair and Regeneration (

The next Annual Meeting of the Wound Healing Society will be May 3–8, 2003, in Seattle, Washington.

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