Researchers at IU School of Medicine are the first to study the use of an electric field-based dressing rather than antibiotics to treat infected wounds.
Sashwati Roy, a professor of surgery at the IU School of Medicine and director of clinical research at the IU Health Comprehensive Wound Center, received funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium to test electroceutical dressing technology, or EDT.
Roy collaborates with Chandan Sen, director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering and IU associate vice president for military and applied research, on this work.
“This is a new approach to managing infection,” said Roy, who is an expert in studying inflammation and chronic wounds. “This is different than inventing new antibiotics until the bacteria become resistant and then inventing another one. Infection is tough to treat that way.”
Chronic wounds are particularly vulnerable to infection because bacteria can create colonies covered by a thick, sticky coating called biofilm. Our immune systems can’t penetrate the biofilm, and antibiotics are also blocked.
When EDT, which is made of a silk material lined with dots of silver and zinc, comes into contact with bodily fluids, it generates a weak electric field of 1 volt, not enough to hurt a patient but enough to disrupt bacteria creating a biofilm. Recently, Roy and collaborators created a prototype that would deliver a continuous, safe, low-level electrical current to an injury.
Exposure to injuries and subsequent risk of infection, particularly drug-resistant infection, is a serious problem for service members. According to Roy, EDT could eliminate multi-drug resistant infections, significantly reducing the risk of infection, shortening recovery time, and improving recovery results for injured service members.
Marketing of the dressing for burn care was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The team is now studying the device's effectiveness in patients recovering from burns.