Health News

Technology may prevent scars after burns, scientists say

While burns can be effectively treated, the resulting scars of many burns can’t be predicted or prevented — but researchers in Israel may have found a way to prevent them.

Short, pulsed electric fields prevented the proliferation of collagen cells, which cause scarring at the site of a burn injury, in rats, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Most burns do not result in death, but scarring after recovery, from any level of injury, often causes longer-lasting physical, psychological and social issues that can be just as detrimental.

Partial irreversible electroporation, or pIRE, is a method of microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, non-thermal electric fields which researchers found reduced the overproduction of collagen cells, suggesting there is a way to prevent scarring for burn patients.

“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,” Dr. Alexander Goldberg, a rofessor at the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University, said in a press release. “Scarring is a very complex process, involving inflammation and metabolism. We have found a way to partially prevent scar formation in animal models.”

For the study, researchers used pIRE with rats that sustained burn injuries, delivering five therapy sessions over the course of six months. They found a balance of using the electric fields to prevent collagen cells from gathering in the wound — the body’s natural response — while not reinjuring the wound.

After six months, the rats being treated with pIRE had a 57.9 percent reduction in scar area compared to scars not treated with the technique.

Researchers caution one limitation of the study is that rats do not develop scars the same way humans do, though the success they saw suggests the technique should be tested in humans.

“People don’t die from scars, but they do suffer from them,” Golberg said. “We believe that the technology we developed, called partial irreversible electroporation, can be used to prevent debilitating burn scars from forming.”