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Thursday, 27 July 2006 08:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Healing power of electricity
Researchers at Aberdeen University, Scotland, have found how the body harnesses the power of electricity to heal cuts and grazes - an effect they manipulated to speed up wound healing dramatically.

And they have also identified a range of chemicals that can stimulate the flow of current at wound sites, in a major discovery that could eventually pave the way for improved treatment for wounds, as well as for non-healing ulcers and major burn injuries.

Professor Colin McCaig, the head of the School of Medical Sciences, said yesterday: "This is a potentially very exciting development. We are at the point of reinventing the clinical practice of electrical stimulation.

"As well as speeding up the healing of wounds, our research could have implications for non-healing ulcers, people with major burn injuries and diabetics, who often have very poor wound healing."

He explained that the role of the body's natural electricity in helping to heal wounds had been identified more than 200 years ago, but had become a forgotten area of medical science.

Prof McCaig said: "We have rediscovered something that has been known about for quite a long time - that within our bodies there are electrical signals. We know about signals that drive our heartbeats, for example. And these are what you would call intra-cellular electrical events.

"But what we are dealing with are electrical signals in the spaces between the cells. If you take a needle and stick it through your skin you would record a voltage difference. If you then create a hole in your skin, all that voltage shoves current out of the hole and short-circuits it.

"Current flows out the edge of the wound the instant you make the wound and is continually flowing out until it heals.

"What we have now discovered is what controls these electrical signals and ways of increasing them. And that's what gives you faster healing."

The team, headed by Professor Min Zhao, have identified the proteins and genes in human cells that play a key role in steering the cells to heal wounds in response to naturally occurring electrical signals at wound sites.

Prof Zhao said: "When a wound occurs it is remarkable how the cells in our body know where to go to heal it. Our studies show that electricity in the body is far more important than was previously thought and that it has significant potential in wound healing and possibly also regeneration.

"Our findings offer a novel perspective in understanding how cells move to heal and what genes and molecules the cells use to detect the electric fields”.

The team's findings have been based on the study of skin wounds and cornea wounds in the laboratory. And Prof Zhao explained: "We hope our next step is a clinical trial to see if we can translate our findings into patient care.

"We want to find out if the drugs we have tried in our lab tests could actually be used to develop eye-drops to help eye wounds, or dressings for the treatment of other wounds”.


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