A team of researchers from Chalmers Institute of Technology (CTH) and the University of Freiburg have proposed an innovative method to speed up the healing process of chronic wounds. These wounds are often caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, spinal injuries, and disturbed blood circulation, which can impair the body’s natural ability to heal. Patients who suffer from such conditions often experience wounds that remain unrepaired and become a source of infection, sometimes leading to amputations.
In their latest study, the researchers claim to have discovered a technique that can heal chronic wounds three times faster using electric current. This breakthrough has the potential to be a game-changer for millions of people worldwide who suffer from chronic wounds that don’t heal.
Maria Asplund, one of the study authors and an associate Professor of Bioelectronics at CTH, said, “Chronic wounds are a huge societal problem that we don’t hear a lot about. Our discovery of a method that may heal wounds up to three times faster can be a game changer for diabetic and elderly people, among others, who often suffer greatly from wounds that won’t heal.”
According to a 2021 report published by the Natural Library of Medicine, over eight million Americans, or 2.5 percent of the population, suffer from chronic wounds at least once in their lifetime. These wounds not only make a person vulnerable to infections but also increase the risk of contracting diseases, especially for the elderly. Therefore, it is crucial to treat them as soon as possible.
The electric stimulation method proposed by the researchers is based on a well-known hypothesis that suggests human skin is electrostatic. This means that the cells in our skin are sensitive to electric current. When placed in an electric field, the cells are likely to move toward the damaged area, thus aiding in the healing process.
The researchers conducted an experiment using a biochip containing cultured skin cells with properties similar to human skin cells. They made wounds on two cells, allowing one to repair under an electric field (200mV/mm) and the other without any electric stimulation. They found that the former healed three times faster than the latter.
The researchers believe that an electric field can act as a guide to skin cells. In the absence of current, the cells move randomly, and the healing process is slow. However, when cells are electrically stimulated, they align in one direction and migrate fast toward the damaged site, eventually making the wound heal more quickly. Furthermore, the cultured wounded cells showed no side effects due to the electric stimulation.
The researchers tested their approach in diabetes models and noticed that the speed of healing in cultures cells with diabetes increased under the influence of an electric field. This method could be especially beneficial for diabetes patients worldwide, who are at a higher risk of experiencing chronic wounds. Even minor cuts can turn into ulcers and long-lasting infections in many such patients.
Asplund and her team are continuing their research to improve the method further and delve deeper into the various factors that enable skin cells to heal faster in the presence of electricity. The electric wound healing method proposed by the researchers could help millions of patients worldwide who bear chronic wounds’ pain.