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> ***To heal a wound, turn up the voltage***, ***To heal a wound, turn up the voltage***
post Jul 27, 2006, 11:25 AM
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For the original article in Nature, see

Anyone here got a Nature subscription?

***To heal a wound, turn up the voltage***

IT MAY sound like something out of Frankenstein, but electric currents
applied to the skin could potentially speed up wound healing.
Ironically, though the phenomenon was reported 150 years ago by the
German physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond, it has been ignored ever

Now Josef Penninger of the Austrian Institute of Molecular Biotechnology
in Vienna and Min Zhao of the University of Aberdeen, UK, have
demonstrated that natural electric fields and currents in tissue play a
vital role in orchestrating the wound-healing process by attracting
repair cells to damaged areas.

The researchers have also identified the genes that control the process.
"We were originally sceptical, but then we realised it was a real effect
and looked for the genes responsible," Penninger says. "It's not
homeopathy, it's biophysics."

Cells and tissues essentially function as chemical batteries, with
positively charged potassium ions and negatively charged chloride ions
flowing across membranes. This creates electric field patterns all over
the body. When tissue is wounded this disrupts the battery, effectively
short-circuiting it. Penninger and his colleagues realised that it is
the resulting altered fields that attract and guide repair cells to the
damaged area.

The researchers grew layers of mouse cells and larger tissues, such as
corneas, in the lab. After "wounding" these tissues, they applied
varying electric fields to them, and found they could accelerate or
completely halt the healing process depending on the orientation and
strength of the field (Nature, vol 442, p 457).

Next, they set about finding which genes were involved. They looked at
those already known to make repair cells migrate under the influence of
chemical growth factors and attractants, and found that their level of
expression could be influenced by electric fields. "We have not
reinvented the cells' genetic migration machinery," says Penninger. "We
have simply shown that electric fields switch them on too." The gene
expression of several types of repair cells was affected, including
neutrophils and fibroblasts.

They then focused on one particular gene known to prepare cells for
migration, and another that halts the process. When the team knocked out
the migration "promoter" gene, wounds exposed to electric fields healed
more slowly. They healed faster when the migration "blocker" was knocked

The next stage is to investigate ways of manipulating the phenomenon to
accelerate healing, says Mark Ferguson, a wound-healing specialist at
the University of Manchester, UK. "For many years there have been
anecdotal reports of the effects of electrical currents on wound
healing," he says. "This paper not only demonstrates the effects of
electrical currents on cellular migration to wound defects, it also
provides a mechanistic understanding of how such signals alter cell
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post Jul 27, 2006, 02:13 PM
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It would be interesting to know what sort of field strengths are required.

Are battery handlers at risk of damage or repair?

Nonetheless an interesting article, especially the information that they identified associated genes!
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