Researchers have devised a new non-invasive method to prevent the scarring caused by second- and third-degree burns.
According to the World Health Organisation, 10% 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, researchers said.
“People do not die from scars, but they do suffer from them. We believe that the technology we developed, called partial irreversible electroporation (pIRE), can be used to prevent debilitating burn scars from forming,” said Alexander Golberg from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel.
Researchers from TAU and Harvard University in the US devised a new non-invasive method to prevent burn scarring caused by the proliferation of collagen cells.
They are using short, pulsed electric fields that prevent the formation of burn-related hypertrophic scars - raised tissue caused by excessive amounts of collagen.
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.
But researchers had to find a delicate balance so that the technique did not create a new wound or “overheal” the existing wound, because scarring is the body’s natural way of healing.
Researchers treated burn injuries in rats in five therapy sessions over six months, then assessed them using an imaging technique.
They found a 57.9% reduction of the scar area in comparison with untreated scars.
“Surgical excision, laser therapy, electron-beam irradiation, mechanical compression dressing, silicone sheet application and other techniques have been tested to treat scars over the years but there have been only modest improvements in the healing outcomes among all these treatments,” said Golberg.
The findings were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.