A new electronic scaffold device could have huge ramifications in wound care.

Antibiotics are a vital component of the greater wound care process. If used properly, these chemical measures can help to significantly reduce a patient’s risk of infection. Beyond that, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Family Practice determined that antibiotics can even improve healing in chronic wounds like diabetic ulcers.

However, most antibiotics are not without their own inherent risks. So to rely less on somewhat unpredictable antibiotic solutions, an increasing number of researchers are currently exploring new treatment approaches. The latest such development? In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a group of scientists experimented with electrical stimulation as an alternative to antibiotics.

The greater issue with antibiotics

Generally speaking, antibiotics can be a helpful part of the average wound care regimen. However, it’s when physicians rely too heavily on this medicines that patients experiences various issues and setbacks. As the Mayo Clinic pointed out, overuse of antibiotics can actually cause certain bacterial strains to develop a resistance to these once vital medications. This once again can open you up to the possibility of infection, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million Americans each year. There are other noteworthy concerns when patients use antibiotics for any extended period of time. According to Medicine Net, several studies have shown that over reliance on antibiotics can actually harm the body’s so-called good bacteria, which can wreak havoc with the natural processes of your immune system.

Surging forward

This latest study is the result of work from a group of biomedical experts at Washington State University. For the sake of their experiments, the team focused on acinetobacter baumannii, a multidrug-resistant bacterium that usually goes after individuals with compromised immune systems. To combat this microbial menace, the scientists used a method called electrochemical scaffold, or e-scaffold.

According to the team, the technique works by applying electrical current to a sample of biofilm, which transforms the surface’s oxygen into hydrogen peroxide. In turn, this new chemical compound will actually destroy or diminish the bacteria. When e-scaffold, which the team has referred to as an electronic bandage – was applied to pig tissue that had been infected with A. baumannii, it reduced the bacterial population by 1/10,000 in just under 24 hours. Plus, the electrical current did not damage any of the nearby tissue on the pig specimen.

Building upward

Haluk Beyenal is a professor of chemical engineering at WSU and a leading expert in biofilm. In an accompanying press release, he said the work with the e-scaffold technique has actually been a long time coming.

“We have been doing fundamental research on this for many years,” he said. “Finally, we are able to transfer it to technology.”

The breakthrough finally came because, as Beyenal noted, the team built the e-scaffold technology with carbon fabric, which gave them better overall control of the various electrochemical reactions.

The collective’s progress also comes from lengthy trial runs to create scaffold with other antibacterial compounds, including honey, zinc, iodine and silver. However, each of these components didn’t have the overall potency to make them feasible options. Timing is an important part of the e-scaffold approach, and there must be ongoing delivery over an extended period to have the most impact on the bacterial population. Having already applied for a patent, Beyenal and his team will continue to experiment to further fine-tune this groundbreaking approach to improved wound care methodologies.

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