Although the proliferation of collagen-producing cells following burn injury is the body’s natural response to trauma, the excessive collagen production leads to the formation of permanent, painful scars. Burn scars secondary to collagen cell proliferation cause intense and ongoing physical and psychological suffering to burn patients who survive the initial destruction of skin and tissue. A recent publication in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology by a team of researchers at Tel Aviv and Harvard Universities details a novel non-invasive technology that mitigates the proliferation of the collagen-producing cells that contribute to scarring. Using short, pulsed electric fields, the researchers showed that debilitating burn scars, which develop due to the overproduction of collagen, can be prevented.
The technique, termed partial irreversible electroporation (pIRE), utilizes non-thermal, high-voltage, microsecond-pulsed electric fields to cause partial destruction to collagen-producing cells in the wound bed. The technique was tested in a pre-clinical model of burn injury by providing five therapeutic sessions over a period of six months. The scars were then imaged, with treated scars demonstrating a 58% decrease in scar area versus untreated scars.
The results are exciting given that current methods for alleviating the lifelong suffering associated with hypertrophic burn scars, such as silicone sheets, surgical excision, compression dressings, electron-beam irradiation, and laser therapy, provide only moderate improvements.