Electronic plasters redefine cutting edge tech

Pulses of electricity help new blood vessels form

A team of bioelectronics researchers from the University of Manchester has found that wounds treated with electrical stimulation heal significantly faster, paving the way for the creation of electronic bandages.

In a study of 40 volunteers, two half-centimetre wounds were created in the upper arms and covered with bandages. One was then left to heal normally while the other was treated with pulses of electricity.

Two weeks later, the bandages were removed and the wounds compared. The electrically stimulated ones had, on average, lower volume, surface area and diameter. Blood flow around the electrically stimulated wounds also increased significantly.

That's pretty much what the researchers were expecting to see, because electricity is known to stimulate the process by which new blood vessels form. More blood vessels means more blood flow to the damaged area, and therefore faster-healing wounds.

The next step will be working to develop commercial dressings which use the same technique. Ardeshir Bayat, who lead the research, said: "When used in acute and chronic wounds, bandages are essentially just a covering. With this technology we hope that the dressings will be able to make a significant functional contribution to healing the wounds and getting the patient back to full health as quickly as possible."