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Use of electrical stimulus can heal wounds three times more quickly

Illustration by: Hassan A. Tahini, Science Brush

Researchers report they have developed a method of using electric stimulation to speed up the healing process, making wounds heal three times faster.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, revisited the hypothesis that electric stimulation of damaged skin can speed wound healing by encouraging skin cells to move in a single direction instead of randomly. Using a microfluid bio-chip engineered by the group, they grew cultured skin cells on the chip, incised wounds, and then stimulated one wound with electricity and let one heal without electricity. The research was published in Lab on a Chip (6, 2023).

They determined the wound that was stimulated with electricity healed three times as fast as the wound that was not stimulated. The electric field used was low, about 200 mV/mm, and did not have a negative impact on the cells, the researchers reported. They believe their findings may be especially significant for patients with diabetes, spinal injuries or poor blood circulation who have impaired wound healing ability.

“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,” said Maria Asplund in a press release. She is Associate Professor of Bioelectronics at Chalmers University of Technology and head of research on this project.

Individualized treatment is the next step in this research, they say.

“We are now looking at how different skin cells interact during stimulation, to take a step closer to a realistic wound. We want to develop a concept to be able to ‘scan’ wounds and adapt the stimulation based on the individual wound. We are convinced that this is the key to effectively helping individuals with slow-healing wounds in the future,” Asplund said.


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