Chronic wounds may heal more quickly if exposed to low-intensity vibration, a new study suggests.
The finding, in mice, may hold promise for those who have type 2 diabetes, and especially the ones who eventually suffer from foot ulcers, researchers said.
Their wounds tend to heal slowly and can become chronic or worsen rapidly, they said.
Timothy Koh from the University of Illinois at Chicago, was intrigued by studies at Stony Brook University in New York that used very low-intensity signals to accelerate bone regeneration.
"This technique is already in clinical trials to see if vibration can improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis," Koh said.
Researchers investigated whether the same technique might improve wound healing in diabetes.
The low-amplitude vibrations are barely perceptible to touch, researchers said.
"It's more like a buzz than an earthquake," said Eileen Weinheimer-Haus, first author of the study.
The researchers found that wounds exposed to vibration five times a week for 30 minutes healed more quickly than wounds in mice of a control group.
Wounds exposed to vibration formed more granulation tissue, a type of tissue important early in the wound-healing process.
Vibration helped tissue to form new blood vessels — a process called angiogenesis — and also led to increased expression of pro-healing growth factors and signalling molecules called chemokines, Weinheimer-Haus said.
"We know that chronic wounds in people with diabetes fail to form granulation tissue and have poor angiogenesis, and we believe these factors contribute to their wounds' failure to heal," said Koh.
Researchers want to determine whether the changes they see in cell populations and gene expression at wound sites underlie the observed improvement in healing.
"The exciting thing about this intervention is how easily it could be translated to people. It's a procedure that's non-invasive, doesn't require any drugs, and is already being tested in human trials to see if it's protective of bone loss," Koh said.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.