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Breakthrough Electrochemical Technology to Revolutionize Treatment of Internal Wounds and Cancerous Tumors

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Feb 2024
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Image: The treatment involves boosting the plasma activation of hydrogel dressings (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The treatment involves boosting the plasma activation of hydrogel dressings (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Worldwide, over 540 million people live with diabetes, and about 30% of these individuals are likely to develop a foot ulcer at some point in their lives. Managing chronic wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers, incurs costs exceeding USD 17 billion annually, a figure projected to rise due to increasing obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles. The current standard treatments for chronic wounds involve antibiotics and silver dressings, each with significant drawbacks. The growing resistance to antibiotics presents a global health challenge, while concerns about silver-induced toxicity have led to a phase-out of silver dressings in Europe. Now, scientists have pioneered a groundbreaking treatment that replaces antibiotics and silver-based dressings with plasma, an ionized gas. This innovative approach, with a primary focus on diabetic foot ulcers, holds potential for broad application across various chronic wounds and even internal infections. The researchers are optimistic that this method could significantly transform the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, internal wounds, and potentially cancerous tumors.

The treatment developed by a team of international scientists led by University of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia) focuses on enhancing the efficacy of hydrogel dressings using plasma. This technique involves enriching the plasma activation of hydrogels with a unique combination of chemical oxidants, aiding in the decontamination and healing of chronic wounds. Cold plasma ionized gas has already demonstrated its effectiveness in clinical trials, controlling infection and fostering healing. This efficacy can be attributed to the robust mix of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) produced when plasma interacts and activates ambient air's oxygen and nitrogen molecules. Although plasma-activated hydrogel therapy (PAHT) has shown promising results, a significant challenge was infusing hydrogels with clinically effective RONS concentrations. The team addressed this by utilizing an innovative electrochemical method to enhance hydrogel activation.

The researchers demonstrated that plasma-activated hydrogel dressings loaded with RONS are remarkably potent, capable of eradicating common bacteria like E. coli and P. aeruginosa, often responsible for infected wounds. Furthermore, these plasma-activated hydrogels can also stimulate the body's immune system, supporting the fight against infections. Going forward, plasma technology could be adapted to treat cancerous tumors. It would involve injecting gels containing activated drugs into the body, with the active components being gradually released to improve treatment effectiveness and tumor penetration. The research team is now preparing for clinical trials, aiming to refine this electrochemical technology for the treatment of human patients.

“Chronic wound infections are a silent pandemic threatening to become a global healthcare crisis. It is imperative that we find alternative treatments to antibiotics and silver dressings because when these treatments don’t work, amputations often occur,” said University of South Australia physicist Dr. Endre Szili, who led the study. “A major advantage of our PAHT technology is that it can be used for treating all wounds. It is an environmentally safe treatment that uses the natural components in air and water to make its active ingredients, which degrade to non-toxic and biocompatible components.”

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