Medical practitioners have long known that electric stimulations can act as an effective catalyst in the healing process of skin wounds, but practical applications have been elusive and largely limited to “clumsy” electrical systems.
Although skin is largely self-healing, skin wound recovery in many cases is painfully slow, literally – even non-existent in some people.
In the United States only, more than 6.5 million people suffer from non-healing skin wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers, venous-related ulcerations, and some surgical wounds, all of which can lead to long-term suffering, both mental and physical.
Doctors have tried a variety of treatments, including bandaging, dressing, exposure to oxygen and growth-factor therapy to help heal chronic skin wounds, but have had limited success with all of those approaches.
The good news is that a team of Chinese and U.S. scientists may have found just the ideal solution to the longstanding problem in the form of an electric bandage.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, USA), University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (Chengdu, China) and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (Wuhan, China) were able to develop an electrical bandage (e-bandage) that considerably sped up the healing of wounds in rats.
A nanogenerator built into the bandage converts “mechanical displacement from skin movements into electricity,” thereby generating “an alternating discrete electric field,” which can stimulate the skin wound into healing four times faster than regular treatments, at least in rats.
“Rat studies demonstrated rapid closure of a full-thickness rectangular skin wound within 3 days as compared to 12 days of usual contraction-based healing processes in rodents,” wrote the authors of the study, published in the journal ACS Nano.
“From in vitro studies, the accelerated skin wound healing was attributed to electric field-facilitated fibroblast migration, proliferation, and transdifferentiation,” say the authors.
“This self-powered electric-dressing modality could lead to a facile therapeutic strategy for nonhealing skin wound treatment.”
Known for its therapeutic value for centuries, electricity has been used by healthcare professionals in treating a variety of conditions, ranging from neurological diseases to brain disorders like insanity; from pain management to shoulder and other musculoskeletal disorders, to name a few.
In fact, electrotherapy dates as far back as 1743 when it was first used by German physician and naturalist Johann Gottlob Krüger, who, along with compatriot Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein, is considered the founder of modern electrotherapy.
18th-century English cleric and theologian John Wesley advocated electrical therapy as a cure-all for all afflictions, which was rejected outright by the mainstream medical community.
Italian physicist, Giovanni Aldini used static electricity for treating insanity in the 1820s.
However, it was British medical doctor Golding Bird at Guy’s Hospital in Southwark in central London who was responsible for bringing electrotherapy into mainstream medicine in the mid-1800s.
Over the years, many electrical contraptions, including some cruel ones, have been used to administer electric treatment to patients.
One such apparatus was the 19th-century “electric bath,” which was used to build up high-voltage electric charge on patients’ bodies.
Here are some more crazy contraptions used in electrotherapy by the quacks of yesteryears.
- The Oudin coil – also known as the Oudin oscillator or Oudin resonator, was a high-voltage induction coil used by quacks for electrotherapy around the turn of the 20th century.
- Pulvermacher’s chain – a wearable electrochemical device mostly used by quacks in the second half of the 19th century.
- Leyden jars – an early form of capacitor, for storing electricity
- Electrostatic generators of various sorts (Source: Wikipedia)