Bronwyn Dearman

Bronwyn Dearman

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Dr Bronwyn Dearman is the Principal Medical Scientist for the Skin Engineering Laboratory, Adult Burns Service, Royal Adelaide Hospital and an Adjunct Associate Lecturer at the University of Adelaide, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

Translational research has been her focus and passion from her early undergraduate years continuing through to honours and her PhD candidature. She was instrumental in starting the first Skin Engineering Laboratory (SEL) for Adelaide, South Australia, alongside Professor John Greenwood and received licensure by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to produce skin cells for burns patients in 2006.

The Skin Engineering Laboratory has two core functions: a) to run a TGA-licensed clinical service producing autologous cultured skin cells for burns patients, and b) to develop innovative skin regeneration products for the treatment of burns and other skin wound conditions. The ultimate goal is to produce a composite that restores all the anatomical structures and physiological functions of skin, reducing the need for skin autografts and limiting donor site creation.

With A/Prof Marcus Wagstaff now Head of Unit at the Adult Burns Unit and Skin Laboratory, this translational research specialising in Skin Tissue Engineering for the treatment of extensive, full-thickness burns is at the forefront of personalised medicine. Dr Dearman's PhD was completed at The University of Adelaide in the field of skin research, thesis entitled, "The development of a tissue-engineered skin composite utilising a biodegradable polyurethane scaffold in a novel bioreactor for the treatment of extensive, full-thickness burns."

As a Medical Scientist in the tissue engineering field, Dr Bronwyn Dearman was instrumental in providing a clinical service of epidermal cells for severely burn-injured adults (and children at the Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital). However, the limitations of this service were obvious with enormous burn injuries where skin grafts were simply not available due to a lack of unburned donor sites, thus she assisted with the development of the 'Two-Stage' Burn Treatment Strategy. The first stage required the creation of a novel dermal template, the Biodegradable Temporising Matrix (BTM). This product is currently used worldwide in burn treatment, and its use in the management of other wound aetiologies is rapidly expanding. The second stage (which takes many weeks of processing and necessitated the first stage), required the development of a bioengineered 'skin' utilising the same novel biodegradable polyurethane found in BTM. The Composite Cultured Skin (CCS), and a bespoke bioreactor system in which several large pieces of CCS can be grown simultaneously, form the backbone of Dr Dearman's ongoing research.

These innovative future technologies are destined to be part of the next global paradigm shift for burns and other chronic wound treatments. This translational research was taken from 'bench to bedside' to treat a patient with deep burns to 95% of his body surface area. He not only survived but lives independently and drives a modified motor vehicle in the community. The two-stage strategy, BTM and CCS, were used serially for this patient who, without its availability, would not have lived.

During her PhD candidature, Dr Dearman collaborated with Professor Steven Boyce, an internationally acknowledged expert in the field of Tissue Engineering with long experience and extensive knowledge of producing engineered skins. The potential of a combination dermal substitute (a hybrid) was formulated and researched to assist with the inherent collagen contraction and polymer pore size to fabricate a skin substitute for extensive full-thickness burn wounds.

Much research is still necessary to achieve a native skin substitute that includes adnexal structures (hair, sweat and sebaceous glands) and pigmentation – these are the next milestone steps planned to strive toward producing an aesthetic and fully-functional skin replacement. 

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2023 - ongoing Adjunct Associate Lecturer The University of Adelaide
    2023 - ongoing Principal Medical Scientist Royal Adelaide Hospital
    2012 - 2023 Senior Medical Scientist Royal Adelaide Hospital
    2011 - 2012 Senior Research Assistant Royal Adelaide Hospital
    2003 - 2011 Research Assistant SA Pathology
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2017 - 2022 University of Adelaide Australia Doctor of Philosophy - Ph.D in Medicine
    2002 - 2002 The University of Adelaide Australia Honours Degree of Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours
    1998 - 2001 The University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Science
  • Research Interests

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