Some wounds just don’t seem to heal. Now, pioneering medical research has come up with some promising new treatments that employ electricity to speed recovery, killing bacteria more effectively than traditional bandages or antibiotics.
Here’s a brief summary of these dramatic new developments in healthcare.
The problem: slow-healing or no-healing wounds
Physicians and emergency room specialists have long been stymied by chronic wounds that resist most efforts to treat them using conventional antibiotics. Researchers at The Ohio State University recently tried a new approach, based on “electroceuticals,” which are devices that use electrical impulses to treat wounds.
Ohio State said its study is the first of its kind to look at the ways electroceutical bandages kill bacteria around a wound, allowing it to heal faster.
Breaking down the barrier
According to Ohio State’s Shaurya Prakash, co-author of the study, the research team found that slow-healing injuries have a barrier of microorganisms (including bacteria) that live on the surface of the wound. The barrier is like a film made up of extracellular polymeric substances, generally fats and proteins, which keep the bacteria safe from antibiotics and other clinical treatment options.
The solution that Ohio State’s research team created involved a bandage made of haboti silk (a common Japanese weave), silk-screened with silver lines to conduct electricity. They attached a small device to the bandage to deliver electricity to the bacteria-laden barrier.
Using electron microscopes, the researchers saw that the electric current disrupted the barrier sufficiently enough to begin destroying bacteria. The bacteria even continued to die off two days after the current was turned off. So they theorized that the bandage and electric current produced hypochlorous acid, a potent antimicrobial chemical, that killed the bacteria without harming the healthy skin nearby.
Similar results at the University of Wisconsin
Researchers in Wisconsin, in a parallel investigation, have developed a new, low-cost wound dressing that uses energy generated from a patient’s body motions to apply gentle electrical pulses at the site of an injury.
The dressing consisted of small electrodes at the wound that were linked to a band holding energy-harvesting units called nanogenerators, which were looped around a wearer’s torso. As the wearer’s ribcage expanded and contracted during regular breathing, the nanogenerators delivered low-intensity electric pulses to the wound.
The result? In the lab, healing times were reduced to only three days, compared to nearly two weeks for the normal healing process.
While it may still take some time to get revolutionary therapies like these from lab to local pharmacy, at the rate medical science is advancing, it probably won’t be long. Meanwhile, if you need wound care supplies, talk to your doctor about smartPAC by Advanced Tissue to get your prescribed products delivered straight to your front door.