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Electricity could speed wound healing in diabetics

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The team of Professors Mahmoud Rouabhia, from the Faculty of Dentistry, and Ze Zhang, from the Faculty of Medicine, found in laboratory experiments that electricity has a positive effect on the proliferation and migration of normal fibroblasts , cells that play an important role early in the healing process.

Our goal is to help these patients who have open ulcers that cannot healsummarized Professor Rouabhia, for whom this discovery represents the culmination of ten years of work.

By comparing fibroblasts taken from healthy subjects with fibroblasts taken from diabetic subjects who had had their feet amputated, the researchers found that an electric current of 20 or 40 millivolts/mm had no effect on healthy cells. On the other hand, it seemed to promote the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts in diabetic subjects.

The level of a marker of fibroblast proliferation, the protein Ki-67, was three times higher when the cells were subjected to electrical stimulation. In addition, a tear made on the cell culture closed twice as quickly under electrical stimulation.

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Researchers admit they don’t understand why cells from diabetics respond better than cells from healthy donors, but they have a hypothesis.

It must be realized that these cells of diabetics come out of a certain number of stressesunderlined Professor Rouabhia. This stress, for example, is the production of several pro-inflammatory molecules. These are the molecules that keep the wound open. Does this difference mean that these cells were quite stressed, so they respond more quickly and at lower doses? It’s a hypothesis and it leads us to work a little more.

The intensity of the electric current required to stimulate healing is so low that it could be generated by a small device that the patient would have with him at all times and which would be powered by a simple battery. The current is also essentially imperceptible, which eliminates any discomfort.

Professors Rouabhia and Zang have also filed a patent application for an electrical stimulation device that could accelerate the healing of ulcers. The ring-shaped device would stimulate the cells around the wound to migrate towards the center, so as to promote healing.

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It is estimated that about 15% of people with diabetes will suffer from a foot ulcer during their lifetime. This problem is characterized by skin lesions that heal poorly and it risks leading to infections that can lead to amputation.

The researchers do not exclude that the same process could possibly help people without diabetes, but who still have healing problems.

The findings of this study are published in the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.

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