Electricity can heal wounds three times faster

Electricity can heal wounds three times faster

Chronic wounds are a major health problem for diabetic patients and the elderly – in extreme cases, they can even lead to amputation.

Using electric stimulation, researchers in a project at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, have developed a method that speeds up the healing process, making wounds heal three times faster.

There is an old Swedish saying that one should never neglect a small wound or a friend in need. For most people, a small wound does not lead to any serious complications, but many common diagnoses make wound healing far more difficult.

People with diabetes, spinal injuries or poor blood circulation have impaired wound-healing ability. This means a greater risk of infection and chronic wounds – which in the long run can lead to such serious consequences as amputation.

Now a group of researchers at Chalmers and the University of Freiburg have developed a method using electric stimulation to speed up the healing process.

Maria Asplund, Associate Professor of Bioelectronics at Chalmers University of Technology and head of research on the project, 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.”



Electric stimulation


The researchers worked from an old hypothesis that electric stimulation of damaged skin can be used to heal wounds.

The idea is that skin cells are electrotactic, which means that they directionally ‘migrate’ in electric fields.

This means that if an electric field is placed in a petri dish with skin cells, the cells stop moving randomly and start moving in the same direction.

The researchers investigated how this principle can be used to electrically guide the cells in order to make wounds heal faster.

Using a tiny, engineered chip, the researchers were able to compare wound healing in artificial skin, stimulating one wound with electricity and letting one heal without electricity. The differences were striking.

Asplund said: “We were able to show that the old hypothesis about electric stimulation can be used to make wounds heal significantly faster.

“In order to study exactly how this works for wounds, we developed a kind of biochip on which we cultured skin cells, which we then made tiny wounds in.

“Then we stimulated one wound with an electric field, which clearly led to it healing three times as fast as the wound that healed without electric stimulation.”

In the study, the researchers also focused on wound healing in connection with diabetes, a growing health problem worldwide.

One in 11 adults today has some form of diabetes according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation

Asplund added: “We’ve looked at diabetes models of wounds and investigated whether our method could be effective even in those cases.

“We saw that when we mimic diabetes in the cells, the wounds on the chip heal very slowly.

“However, with electric stimulation, we can increase the speed of healing so that the diabetes-affected cells almost correspond to healthy skin cells.”


‘Scan wounds’


The Chalmers researchers recently received a large grant which will allow them to continue their research in the field, and in the long run, enable the development of wound healing products for consumers on the market.

Similar products have come out before, but more basic research is required to develop effective products that generate enough electric field strength and stimulate in the right way for each individual.

This is where Asplund and her colleagues come into the picture: “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.” 

Image: New research from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, shows that wounds on cultured skin cells heal three times faster when stimulated with electric current. The project was recently granted more funding so the research can get one step closer to the market and the benefit of patients. © Science Brush | Hassan A Tahini.

Research Aether / Health Uncovered

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Aether: Issue 4 May 2023

Aether: Issue 3 Feb 2023

Aether: Issue 2 Nov 2022

Aether: Issue 1 Aug 2022

Subscribe for free

Latest Testimonial

What a beautiful motto: Discoveries must be read and not just published. When I was contacted by Aether as a new digital service to share scientific and technological insights I had my doubts that this was really going to be according to what I call the “open source & makers’ spirit”: knowledge should be free and it is there to be shared.

Well, Aether is faithful to its motto and shares discoveries freely. It has been a pleasure to collaborate for the interview and subsequent article. It has been greatly self satisfying to see how the interview was professionally and truthfully redacted and then published. Sharing thoughts and sparks for discussions is fundamental to the progress of society. Your journal offers clarity and brevity and I believe it provides the sparks to ignite any reader whether academic or not into action.

Dr Maria-Cristina Ciocci
Co-founder and Manager of non-profit organisation De Creative STEM,GirlsInSTEM