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Image credit: Sam Million-Weaver/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Self-powered electric bandages could speed up healing

Wounds could take just a few days to heal instead of weeks.
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Sam Million-Weaver/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Scientists have known for a long time that electricity can speed up healing for skin wounds, but the necessary power has usually tied patients to electrotherapy machines. In the future, though, it might not be much more complicated than treating a wound the old-fashioned way. Researchers in the US and China recently developed self-powered electric bandages that promise to be as easy to wear as ordinary dressings. The dressings include tiny electrodes powered by nanogenerators wrapped around your torso. All you have to do is breathe -- the movement of your ribcage activates the nanogenerators, sending low-intensity pulses to the wound area.

While it's not fully clear how the pulses help, scientists noted that they increase the viability of fibroblasts (a kind of skin cell) and encourage them to line up, which is key to the healing process. The pulses also produced additional biochemical materials that contribute to tissue growth.

The results were dramatic in lab tests. Wounds on rodents that took almost two weeks to heal the normal way only required three days with the electric bandage. The technology uses comparatively common materials and is simple to make, for that matter, so it shouldn't cost much more than conventional bandaging. The challenge at this stage is simply bringing it to fruition. The team still wants to test it on pig skin (similar to human skin), and human trials would have to follow after that. If they succeed, you could spend much less time recuperating, not to mention less time in the hospital.

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