While burn scars are not life-threatening, they can lead to lifelong physical, psychological and social difficulties. A team from Tel Aviv University and Harvard University have used pulsed electric fields to stop the formation of scar tissue in rats.
"People don't die from scars, but they do suffer from them," said Dr. Alexander Golberg of Tel Aviv University, in a statement. "We believe that the technology we developed, called partial irreversible electroporation (pIRE), can be used to prevent debilitating burn scars from forming."
The noninvasive method partially destroys cells in a burn wound using microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, nonthermal electric fields, according to a statement. This causes irreversible damage to collagen cells, the proliferation of which causes permanent scarring at a burn injury site.
The researchers administered the treatment to rats with burn injuries in 5 sessions over the course of 6 months. They found a 58% reduction in scar area in the treated rats compared to untreated scars. While the results are promising, the scientists had to take care not to create a new wound or to counteract scarring too much, which can impede the body’s natural healing.
Other methods used to treat scarring include surgery, laser therapy and electron beam irradiation, Dr. Golberg said. But these have resulted only in “modest improvements.”
"Scarring is a very complex process, involving inflammation and metabolism," said Dr. Golberg. "We have found a way to partially prevent scar formation in animal models. Next we need to raise funding to develop a device for the clinical study on humans."