Story at a glance

  • A materials scientist has developed a material that generates low frequency electric fields when it is stretched or pulled.
  • In experiments on rats, bandages made out of the material healed wounds faster.
  • The electric fields generated by this material also show promise for aiding weight loss and reversing baldness.

A new bandage uses gentle electric pulses to speed wound healing. The technology, which uses low frequency electricity, has also shown promise in treating baldness and obesity, NPR reports

Electric fields facilitate cell regeneration, which helps us heal. Our bodies generates electric fields when we have a cut or a burn, according to material scientist Xudong Wang of the University of Wisconcin-Madison, who developed these devices.

The new bandage is made out of a material that creates an electric field when it’s stretched or pulled by the movements of its wearer. This means its healing powers don’t require a battery. 

“Electric stimulations can help many different body functions,” Wang said in a statement. “But before our work there was no really good solution for low-profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimulations.”

In a test using rats, the bandages were applied to wounds on rats that would typically take around two weeks to heal. In just three days the cut had completely closed up. The results don’t prove the technology will work in humans but offer a strong incentive for further testing.

Wang is also working on two other applications for the material and its electric field. The first hopes to fight obesity by tricking the stomach into feeling full. In tests, piping the electrical pulses generated by a patch of the special material directly to a nerve that connects a rat’s stomach to its brain made rats feel full, causing them to eat less and reducing their weight. 

Another patch uses the electric fields created by the material to stimulate hair regrowth. In an experiment, again with rats, the patch activated the hair follicles beneath causing hair to regrow faster and thicker in three weeks. 

Wang has fashioned a baseball cap lined with the material that he’s looking to test on bald human volunteers once he receives approval. He hopes the electric field can reactivate hair follicles that have shut off and spur fresh growth.

Published on Jan 04, 2020