Bandage delivers electrotherapy to accelerate healing
Also: Research confirms mental benefits of exercise; vitamin D may counter dementia
April 1, 2023 | View PDF
Northwestern University researchers in Chicago have developed a first-of-its-kind small, flexible, stretchable bandage that accelerates healing by delivering electrotherapy directly to the wound site. In an animal study, the new bandage healed diabetic ulcers 30% faster than in mice without the bandage.
The bandage also actively monitors the healing process and then harmlessly dissolves into the body after it is no longer needed. The new device could provide a powerful tool for patients with diabetes, whose ulcers can lead to various complications, including amputated limbs or even death.
These findings are considered remarkable because they represent the first bioresorbable bandage capable of delivering electrotherapy and the first example of a smart regenerative system. The new bandage will be cost-effective, easy to apply, adaptable, comfortable and efficient at closing wounds to prevent infections and further complications, according to the researchers.
“When a person develops a wound, the goal is always to close that wound as quickly as possible,” said study investigator Northwestern’s Guillermo A. Ameer. “Otherwise, an open wound is susceptible to infection. And, for people with diabetes, infections are even harder to treat and more dangerous. For these patients, there is a major unmet need for cost-effective solutions that really work for them.”
Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and about 15% to 25% of that population develops a diabetic foot ulcer at some point in their lives.
“Although it’s an electronic device, the active components that interface with the wound bed are entirely resorbable,” said Northwestern’s John A. Rogers, who co-led the study. “As such, the materials disappear naturally after the healing process is complete, thereby avoiding any damage to the tissue that could otherwise be caused by physical extraction.”
Walking away from depression
Researchers at the University of South Australia are calling for exercise to be a mainstay approach for managing depression as a new study shows that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or the leading medications.
Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers conducted the most comprehensive review to date, encompassing 97 reviews, 1,039 trials, and 128,119 participants. The review showed that physical activity is extremely beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress. Specifically, it showed that exercise interventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were the most effective at reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the speed at which physical activity can make a change.
The largest benefits were seen among people with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and people diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease. According to the World Health Organization, one in every eight people worldwide (970 million people) live with a mental disorder.
Lead researcher Dr. Ben Singh said physical activity must be prioritized to better manage the growing cases of mental health conditions.
“Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment,” said Dr. Singh. “Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement.”
The researchers found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates and yoga.
“Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health,” said Dr. Singh.
Vitamin D supplements may help ward off dementia
Be sure to know what your vitamin D levels are and if necessary take supplements. That is the latest message from researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Exeter in the UK. They explored the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and dementia in more than 12,388 participants of the U.S. National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center. The participants were on average 71 years old and were dementia-free when the study began. Of the group, 37% (4,637) took vitamin D supplements.
In the study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, the team found that taking vitamin D was associated with living dementia-free for longer, and they also found 40% fewer dementia diagnoses in the group who took supplements. In this study, 2,696 participants progressed to dementia over 10 years and 2,017 (75%) had no exposure to vitamin D throughout all visits prior to dementia diagnosis.
“We know that vitamin D has some effects in the brain that could have implications for reducing dementia, however, so far research has yielded conflicting results. Our findings give key insights into groups who might be specifically targeted for vitamin D supplementation. Overall, we found evidence to suggest that earlier supplementation might be particularly beneficial, before the onset of cognitive decline,” said lead researcher Zahinoor Ismail with the University of Calgary.
While vitamin D was effective in all groups, the team found that effects were significantly greater in females, compared to males. Similarly, effects were greater in people with normal cognition, compared to those who reported signs of mild cognitive impairment (changes to cognition which have been linked to a higher risk of dementia).
The effects of vitamin D were also significantly greater in people who did not carry the APOEe4 gene, known to present a higher risk for Alzheimer’s dementia, compared to non-carriers. The authors suggest that people who carry the APOEe4 gene absorb vitamin D better from their intestine, which might reduce the vitamin D supplementation effect. However, no blood levels were drawn to test this hypothesis.
Most Vitamin D is produced as a natural byproduct of the skin’s exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in fish liver oil, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel or taken as a dietary supplement.
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at email@example.com.