Engineers at University of Wisconsin-Madison are working on a low-cost bandage that speeds up healing time. Their research, which was recently described in the journal ACS Nano, uses energy generated from a patient's own body movements to apply electrical pulses gently to the injury site. In animal models, the bandage reduced healing times from two weeks to just three days.
“We were surprised to see such a fast recovery rate,” says Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at University of Wisconsin–Madison. “We suspected that the devices would produce some effect, but the magnitude was much more than we expected. The nature of these electrical pulses is similar to the way the body generates an internal electric field."
The bandage consists of small electrodes that sit on the injury site. The electrodes are linked to band around the patient's ribcage containing nanogenerators. The nanogenerators are energy-harvesting units that are triggered when the patient's ribcage expands and contracts during breathing. Once powered, the nanogenerators deliver low-intensity electric pulses to the electrodes on the bandage. Unlike high-power electrotherapy devices, the low-intensity pulses will not damage healthy tissues.
From the University of Wisconsin-Madison article: "In fact, the researchers showed that exposing cells to high-energy electrical pulses caused them to produce almost five times more reactive oxygen species — major risk factors for cancer and cellular aging — than did cells that were exposed to the nanogenerators. Also a boon to healing: They determined that the low-power pulses boosted viability for a type of skin cell called fibroblasts, and exposure to the nanogenerator’s pulses encouraged fibroblasts to line up (a crucial step in wound healing) and produce more biochemical substances that promote tissue growth."
Read more about the bandage that uses a person's own body to heal at University of Wisconsin-Madison.