Part of the show Q&A and What Does Derek Look Like?
Researchers at Aberdeen University have proved that Benjamin Franklin was right all those years ago to zap injured people with electricity, because a squirt of current can make wounds heal more rapidly. Writing in this week's edition of Nature, Min Zhao and his colleagues have shown that, in a wounded area, an electric current flows out of the wound and into the adjacent tissue. This sets up a guidance signal which surrounding skin cells can follow as they migrate into the wound to promote healing. Artificially reversing the current causes the opposite to occur and the wound opens up. The team have gone on to identify two genes which play key roles in the process, called PI3k-gamma and PTEN. Knocking out PI3k-gamma prevents cells from responding to electrical signals, whilst inactivating PTEN boosts cell sensitivity to the effect. These results suggest that drugs capable of manipulating the action of these genes, together with electrified wound dressings, might hold the key to speedier wound healing in future.