For some time now, scientists have known that electrical currents can help heal chronic wounds. And while there are electrotherapy units that are in use, they can be quite bulky and complex. That's why researchers have created an "electric bandage" that's powered by the motion of the body.

Developed by a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the bandage is hard-wired to a band that is worn around the patient's torso. That band contains electronic components known as nanogenerators, which harvest energy from the movement of the wearer's ribcage as it expands and contracts while they breathe.

This results in low-intensity electrical pulses, which are delivered from the band and into electrodes within the bandage. These in turn are in contact with the injured tissue. When lab-tested on rats, the technology was able to heal full-thickness skin wounds within three days, as opposed to the 12 days that it would take ordinarily.

It was also found that unlike the higher-intensity current delivered by some electrotherapy devices, the pulses administered by the bandage pose no risk of tissue damage. Additionally, the gentler current was better at encouraging fibroblast skin cells to line up (which is a key step in the wound-healing process), and to produce biochemical substances that promote tissue growth.

The scientists are now further investigating just how the pulses help wounds to heal. They're also planning on testing the technology on pigs, and are adapting the nanogenerators to harvest energy from movements as subtle as skin twitches or heartbeats. It is thought that the finished commercial product should be fairly inexpensive, as the nanogenerators are made from relatively common materials, and the bandages are easy to fabricate.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.