The electric gel that helps repair chronic wounds

The electric gel that helps repair chronic wounds could offer a new way to heal difficult-to-treat injuries including leg ulcers in patients with diabetes

An electrically charged gel could offer a new way to heal difficult-to-treat wounds, including leg ulcers or foot wounds in patients with diabetes.

When any type of wound occurs, the body naturally generates a tiny electric current around the edges of it (with a voltage 15 times weaker than an AA battery, according to researchers at the University of Aberdeen).

The voltage is created when positive and negative ions (atoms or molecules with an electrical charge) cross each other.

An electrically charged gel could offer a new way to heal difficult-to-treat wounds, including leg ulcers or foot wounds in patients with diabetes

Repair cells are then attracted by the electrical charge and move to the area, beginning the healing process.

The new gel, known as Biocompatible Self-Powered Piezoelectric Hydrogel, mimics this effect — but with the gel, electricity is generated when tiny crystals made with a compound called polyvinylidene fluoride are squeezed; physical activity (moving the body part concerned) also increases the effect, creating more electricity across the wound.

External electricity is already used to speed up healing: wearable devices, where electrodes are placed directly onto the wound, are used in hospital and other settings and have been shown to boost the healing process in chronic wounds.

The electric gel requires no external device and uses so-called piezoelectricity technology — where crystals convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. This is widely used in gas stove and barbecue lighters, for instance, where a spark is created when man-made pressure is applied, creating a voltage

The electric gel requires no external device and uses so-called piezoelectricity technology — where crystals convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.

This is widely used in gas stove and barbecue lighters, for instance, where a spark is created when man-made pressure is applied, creating a voltage.

Researchers have now created a gel with a crystal structure using polyvinylidene fluoride.

This is put onto wounds — the amount required depends on the size of the wound — and once pressed into place, it creates a tiny electric current to kickstart the healing process.

The new gel has been developed for treating chronic wounds — research reported in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces in October shows that it attracts repair cells and significantly increases the number of healing compounds in the area, including growth factors.

A laboratory study by researchers at West China Medical Center, Sichuan University, found that movement generated by physical activities was also converted into electrical energy, speeding up the healing process. Further trials are now planned.

Commenting on the research, Dr Bav Shergill, a consultant dermatologist at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, says: ‘There have been many scientific papers that show the benefits of this technology of selective stimulation for wound healing.

‘The principles here are sound, but the delivery is novel and very interesting.’

Skin grown from cells taken from donors may be a new way to tackle wounds.

Doctors at Kyoto University in Japan have successfully used skin grown from cells, isolated from skin removed in surgery on other patients, to create a treatment for healing wounds.

The cells were used to grow a ‘cultured epidermis’, a layer of skin that’s placed on the wound to act as a scaffold for repair cells that are produced naturally by the body. In the new study, published in the journal Burns, doctors treated six patients — five with burns, one with skin ulcers — with the dry, processed skin.

The study results show that, on average, 73 per cent of wounds had healed after one week, and 92 per cent after a fortnight.

The wounds treated were up to 10 per cent of body surface area.

Secrets of an A-list body

How to get the enviable physiques of the stars. This week: Beyoncé’s shoulders

Beyoncé showed off her shoulders and collarbone in a corseted dress at a recent gala.

The 41-year-old singer and mother of three is said to work out at least five times a week, with 45 minutes’ weight training in each session.

What to try: The incline bench press is great for training the shoulders and upper chest, for which you’ll need a chair and either two dumbbells or two bottles of water.

Sit on the chair and place your feet flat on the floor as you lean back.

Hold the weights to your shoulders, with your elbows tucked behind your ribcage. Press the weights forwards and up, in line with your gaze, and extend your arms. Inhale and lower back to the starting position. Repeat five times for two sets, three times a week.

Beyoncé showed off her shoulders and collarbone in a corseted dress at a recent gala

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