New impulses for research – Wound healing in old age comes into focus

“What questions about accident injuries should research address? Have your say!” With this call, the international crowdsourcing project “Tell Us!”, launched by the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG), started in 2018. The aim was to integrate the needs of patients and medical professionals more strongly into research. This is because the flow of knowledge usually only takes place in one direction – new findings flow from the laboratory via clinical studies to the doctor’s office. Experiences, suggestions and wishes from everyday clinical life rarely find their way back to the laboratory bench.

More than 800 submitted research questions demonstrated the great social relevance of the initiative. The wide-ranging topics were then ranked according to their urgency in a public voting process. It became apparent that there is particular interest in new research in the areas of wound healing, rehabilitation and ageing.

These topics form the basis for SHoW (short for Senescence & Healing of Wounds), a research initiative of LBG in close cooperation with AUVA. The project is funded by the Austrian National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development.

“Our experience has shown that the involvement of unusual knowledge providers brings novel impulses for research. The combination of research on wound healing and ageing processes is an innovative approach that could only come about through crowdsourcing,” Claudia Lingner, Managing Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft, is convinced.


The increasing ageing of society raises many new questions for health care. In Austria, 19% of all people are already over 65 years old. In old age, many biological processes change, body cells act more slowly, comorbidities such as diabetes are added – all this has the consequence that wound healing in old age proceeds differently and is often inhibited. The need for better therapy for these patients is great.

In principle, the body has a high regenerative potential: through cell division, cells can constantly renew themselves and also heal wounds. However, this process is disturbed in senescent, i.e. ageing, cells, and such cells can also affect neighbouring healthy cells. How these ageing cells contribute to wound healing disorders and chronic wounds has not yet been sufficiently researched. In addition, it is still difficult to recognise these cells. Therefore, over the next four years, the scientists in the research group will investigate mechanisms that disrupt the wound healing process. “With our research work, we are addressing two levels: On the one hand, we want to develop or improve forms of therapy for wound healing, and on the other, we want to introduce clinical diagnostic tools that will enable personalised treatment,” says Prof. Heinz Redl, co-director and scientific head of SHoW.


SHoW’s research follows a transdisciplinary approach. While the newly founded research group is dedicated to the mechanisms of wound healing in ageing tissue, a sub-project will also address wound healing from a social science perspective. In addition, the SHoW team will carry out targeted communication and coordination initiatives so that the needs and experiential knowledge from practice are optimally integrated into the research. This is because it is important to translate a societal problem into scientific researchability in order to guarantee that research in the laboratory provides the best possible benefit for society.

“In terms of social and research policy, non-healing wounds are an invisible issue, even though they greatly affect the quality of life and participation in public life. With SHoW, we are now given the tools to address this problem in a truly transdisciplinary way,” enthuses Co-Director and Open Innovation Manager Dr Raffael Himmelsbach.

SHoW will be based at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology, at the Lorenz Böhler Trauma Centre, for the next four years. By combining a wide range of research disciplines and working closely with Austrian trauma hospitals, SHoW follows the Institute’s tradition.