Scientists have developed a new, low-cost dressing which uses electrical stimulation to dramatically speed up healing of wounds.
The method developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US leverages energy generated from a patient’s own body motions to apply gentle electrical pulses at the site of an injury.
In rodent tests, the dressings reduced healing times to a mere three days compared to nearly two weeks for the normal healing process, according to the research .
According to Xudong Wang, a professor at UW-Madison,
We were surprised to see such a fast recovery rate. We suspected that the devices would produce some effect, but the magnitude was much more than we expected.
Researchers have known for several decades that electricity can be beneficial for skin healing. However, most electrotherapy units in use today require bulky electrical equipment and complicated wiring to deliver powerful jolts of electricity.
Angela Gibson, professor at UW-Madison.Acute and chronic wounds represent a substantial burden in healthcare worldwide. The use of electrical stimulation in wound healing is uncommon.
In contrast with existing methods, the new dressing is much more straightforward.
“Our device is as convenient as a bandage you put on your skin,” said Wang.
The new dressings consist of small electrodes for the injury site that are linked to a band holding energy-harvesting units called nanogenerators, which are looped around a wearer’s torso.
The natural expansion and contraction of the wearer’s ribcage during breathing powers the nanogenerators, which deliver low-intensity electric pulses.
Xudong WangThe nature of these electrical pulses is similar to the way the body generates an internal electric field.
These low-power pulses won’t harm healthy tissues like traditional, high-power electrotherapy devices might, researchers said.
They showed that exposing cells to high-energy electrical pulses caused them to produce almost five times more reactive oxygen species, major risk factors for cancer and cellular ageing, than did cells that were exposed to the nanogenerators.
The researchers determined that the low-power pulses boosted viability for a type of skin cell called fibroblasts.
Exposure to the nanogenerator’s pulses encouraged fibroblasts to line up and produce more biochemical substances that promote tissue growth, a crucial step in wound healing.>