The most detailed study to date showing how electrical stimulation accelerates wound healing has been carried out by scientists at the University of Manchester.
Every year, the NHS alone spends £1bn on treating chronic wounds, such as lower limb venous and diabetic ulcers, that fail to heal and remain open for longer than six weeks.
Researchers from Manchester University carried out a study of skin wound healing in 40 individuals. The results are published in the free online journal PLOS ONE.
Half-centimetre, harmless wounds were created on each upper arm of the volunteers. One wound was left to heal normally while the other was treated with electrical pulses over a period of two weeks.
“This research has shown the effectiveness of electrical stimulation in wound healing”
These pulses stimulated the process through which new blood vessels form – known as angiogenesis – increasing the blood flow to the damaged area and resulting in the wounds healing significantly faster.
The researchers now plan to work with a company called Oxford BioElectronics Ltd on a five-year project to develop and evaluate devices and dressings that use the same techniques to stimulate the body’s nervous system to generate nerve impulses to the site of skin repair.
Lead study author Dr Ardeshir Bayat said: “We believe this technology has the potential to be applied to any situation where faster wound healing is particularly desirable, such as following human or veterinary surgical wounds, accidental, or military trauma and in sports injuries.”
He added that the project had “the potential to change substantially the way cutaneous wounds are managed in the future”.
“When used in acute and chronic wounds, bandages are essentially just a covering,” he said.
“With this technology we hope that the dressings will be able to make a significant functional contribution to healing the wounds and getting the patient back to full health as quickly as possible,” said Dr Bayat.