Scientists have developed a new non-invasive method that uses pulsed electric fields to prevent the proliferation of collagen cells that cause raised tissue, which results in burn scars or hypertrophic scars. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) ten percent of all unintentional-injury deaths are the result of fire-related burns. But even for those who survive the destruction of skin and tissue cells, the road to recovery is never ending. Post-burn scarring creates lifelong physical, psychological and social challenges.
The newly developed technology, called partial irreversible electroporation (pIRE), can be used to prevent debilitating burn scars from forming, say the scientists behind the technology. The non-invasive pIRE technique harnesses microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, non-thermal electric fields to control the body 's natural response to trauma — the proliferation of collagen cells that cause permanent scarring at the site of injury. The technique partially destroys cells in the wound with short, pulsed electric fields that cause irreversible damage to the collagen cells.
However, because scarring is the body’s natural way of healing, the researchers had to find a delicate balance so that their technique did not end up creating a new wound. In research on rats, the researchers found a 57.9 percent reduction of the scar area in comparison with untreated scars. Surgical excision, laser therapy, electronbeam irradiation, mechanical compression dressing, silicone sheet application and other techniques have been tested to treat scars over the years.
But so far there have been only modest improvements in the healing outcomes among all these treatments. The researchers note that scarring is a very complex process, involving inflammation and metabolism and while their treatment has been found effective in rats, the next phase which involves clinical study on humans could be critical.