To heal a wound, turn up the voltage
"We were originally sceptical, but then we realised it was a real effect and looked for the genes responsible. It's not homeopathy, it's biophysics."
- Josef Penninger, Austrian Institute of Molecular Biotechnology
Vienna, Austria - 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 since.
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.