This Might Come as a Shock: Electricity Could Help Wound Healing

The method helps blood vessels carry more white blood cells and oxygen to wounds.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A new study is revealing that electricity may help in wound healing by increasing the permeability of blood vessels, which in turn, increases their capacity to carry white blood cells and oxygen. The remarkable work is taking place at Ohio State University.

“There was this speculation that blood vessels could grow better if you stimulated them electrically,” said Shaurya Prakash, senior author of the study and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University.

“And we found that the response of the cells in our blood vessel models shows significant promise towards changing the permeability of the vessels that can have positive outcomes for our ongoing work in wound healing.”

Blood vessels carry oxygen and white blood cells with them — which protect the body from foreign invaders and help heal wounds. In general, at the site of an injury, blood vessels regrow on their own as part of the healing process.

“And as the blood vessels begin to grow, they replenish the skin and cells and establish a healing barrier again,” Prakash added. “But our question was: How do you make this process better and faster, and is there any benefit to doing that?”

In laboratory tests performed using human cells, the researchers discovered that stimulating blood vessels with electricity showed a marked increase in blood vessel permeability.

“These initial findings are exciting, and the next phase of the work will require us to study if and how we can actually grow new vessels,” Prakash said.

Jon Song, a co-author of the paper and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State, added that the team now has "a better understanding for how electric stimulation can change the permeability across the vessel walls,”

The study was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip.

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