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Electrical Frequencies May Help Heal Chronic Wounds

Potential for electrical-based wound treatment is far-reaching, researchers say

Naturally occurring electricity in human cells is key to how our bodies function, and that includes the healing of wounds.

Externally applied low-amplitude electric fields have been shown to help hard-to-heal chronic wounds, such as those associated with diabetes, where there is an insufficient blood supply and drug treatments are not effective. The externally applied electric field manipulates the body’s naturally occurring electricity, resulting in angiogenesis and an increased supply of blood to the wound.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have worked to identify the most effective magnitude and frequency when applying an external low-amplitude electric field to vascular cells, which play a key role in healing chronic wounds. The researchers’ findings will be presented at the American Physical Society meeting, held March 3–7 in Denver, Colorado.

The team discovered that high-frequency electrical stimulus, similar to that generated by cell phones and Wi-Fi networks, increased the growth of blood vessel networks by as much as 50%, whereas low-frequency electrical stimulus did not produce such an effect. As part of their work, the team has developed a specialized antenna to apply the electrical signals to a localized wound.

The high-frequency electrical stimulus is able to change the ionic environment surrounding endothelial cells, which form the lining of blood vessels. Inside the cells, this stimulus creates links with proteins (which have charges that react with the applied electrical field) to activate pathway signals leading to growth in the capillary network. The high-frequency electrical stimulus also causes cells to produce growth factors that help sustain growing vascular networks.

The potential for electrical-based treatment of wounds is far-reaching, the researchers say. Given the targeted, localized nature of such wound treatment, the application of electrical stimulus could replace or reduce the need for drug-based treatments, which affect the entire body and may have adverse effects. Importantly, such therapy could be applied using a hand-held device without the need to remove the wound dressing.

The stimulus frequency used by the team was as high as 7.5 billion cycles per second and as low as 60 cycles per second, which is the same frequency used in 120-volt power outlets in the U.S. The vascular tissue cells were exposed to the electrical fields for 1 hour per day for 7 days, and the rate of wound healing was observed for 24 hours after each treatment.

Source: Medical Xpress; March 4, 2014.

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