The human body relies on electrical signals in many ways. So it is of no great surprise that researchers have found a possible link between weaker electric fields and tissue’s ability to heal.
People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from slow- or non-healing wounds. These wounds will often lead to the development of ulcers, or gangrene. Once the tissue becomes gangrenous, physicians are usually left with no other option but amputation of the affected digits or limbs.
Diabetes sufferers are in the high-risk group for gangrene. This is due to poor blood flow, and damage to nerves and blood cells from high sugar levels. People with diabetes are also more vulnerable to injury of the feet. These injuries are slow to heal and highly susceptible to infection.
Research Led by Professor Min Zhao
Professor Min Zhao and team are dedicated to researching the relationship between electrical signaling and tissue healing. In previous research, the team discovered that cornea wounds in mice healed more slowly in the absence of a strong electric field.
The research indicates that the electrical field plays an important part in cell regeneration and the healing process. Professor Zhao, who is Professor of Ophthalmology and Dermatology at the University of California-Davis, is pursuing further research to establish a practical application for healing wounds through increased electric fields.
Electric Fields & Wounds
When a wound is observed during the healing process, electrical fields occur as a stimulant for cells that aid healing. Where healing occurs within an expected timeframe, natural electrical currents are observed. Where the electrical current is weakened, cell migration efficiency is reduced, which results in a wound that is slower to heal.
The team then sought to establish if there was a possible correlation between slow diabetic healing and reduced electrical current.
They used mice to recreate different types of diabetes through controlled breeding. The three focus groups were bred to develop genetic, dietary, and drug-induced diabetes respectively. The mice were then humanely destroyed, preserving only the eyes for further study.
By keeping the eyes in a tear solution, Professor Zhao’s team was able to mimic the electrical field response to wounds. The team took a thin coating from each cornea, effectively stimulating the healing response, so that they could test the strength of the electric field.
In each case where the subject was bred with diabetes, regardless of the type, the electric field was observed to be much weaker than in a normal eye. While more research is needed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a potential relationship between electric currents and slow healing in people with diabetes.
Practical Implication for Treatment
The research that Professor Zhao and his team have carried out could lead to new treatments for diabetes sufferers. Electro stimulation is one potential treatment that the team is eager to explore, as a way of galvanizing the natural healing mechanisms around wounds.
Electrical stimulation has been shown to improve the movement of epithelial cells, which is essential to the wound healing process. It is suggested, therefore, that electrical field stimulation be used in conjunction with other treatments to aid in the acceleration of healing.
If you suffer from diabetes, your physician may already use forms of electrical current treatment, such as tens. There are a number of studies which seek to incorporate a practical form of treatment for diabetic wound healing, through the use of similar electric current stimulation.
At Step By Step, we are also very encouraged by the findings so far. We currently offer FREMS treatment, which aids in nerve regeneration. To find out more about this electrical signal treatment, contact our clinic for free advice or to set up an appointment.