Partial Irreversible Electroporation May Help Extinguish Burn Scars Before They Start

August 7, 2016

A new non-invasive method may help prevent burn scarring caused by the proliferation of collagen cells, report researchers from Tel Aviv University and Harvard University in theJournal of Investigative Dermatology.

The team is using short, pulsed electric fields prevent the formation of burn-related hypertrophic scars.

Ten percent of all unintentional-injury deaths are the result of fire-related burns, according to the World Health Organization. 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.

"People don't die from scars, but they do suffer from them," say Dr. Alexander Golberg of TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies. "We believe that the technology we developed, called partial irreversible electroporation (pIRE), can be used to prevent debilitating burn scars from forming."

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. The researchers had to find a delicate balance so that the technique didn't create a new wound or "overheal" the existing wound because scarring is the body's natural way of healing.

NEXT UP: CLINICAL TRIALS

They treated burn injuries in rats in five therapy sessions over six months, then assessed them using an imaging technique developed at the Wellman Center of Photomedicine at Massachusetts General. The researchers found a 57.9 percent reduction of the scar area in comparison with untreated scars.

"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,” Golberg says.

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