Healing times for skin ulcers and bedsores can be reduced by one-third with the use of low-intensity ultrasound, according to a recent study.

PT_news-01Scientists from the University of Sheffield and University of Bristol in the U.K. conducted a study in mice and found ultrasound transmitted a vibration through the skin that awakened cells in wounds, which can speed healing. The findings were published in the June 2015 Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Researchers also found the ultrasound treatment, which can reduce the chance of infection, is particularly effective when treating older mice and those with diabetes.

According to the CDC, the number of U.S. adults who have been diagnosed with diabetes has increased during the past three decades, from 5.5 million in 1980 to 20.8 million in 2011. About 25% of people with diabetes will suffer from skin ulcers, particularly on the foot, because of the loss of sensation and circulation in the legs, according to past research.

“Skin ulcers are excruciatingly painful for patients and in many cases can only be resolved by amputation of the limb,” lead author, Mark Bass, PhD, of Sheffield’s Centre for Membrane Interactions and Dynamics, said in a news release. “Using ultrasound wakes up the cells and stimulates a normal healing process. Because it is just speeding up the normal processes, the treatment doesn’t carry the risk of side effects that are often associated with drug treatments.”

For the study, Bass collaborated with researchers at the School of Biochemistry at the University of Bristol, the Wound Biology Group at the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair in the U.K., and the orthopedic company, Bioventus LLC in Durham, N.C.

“Now that we have proven the effectiveness of ultrasound we need to explore the signal further,” Bass said in the release. “We have found that the ultrasound signal we currently use is effective, but it is possible that by refining the treatment we could improve the effects even further.

“Because ultrasound is relatively risk-free we could expect to see it in broad clinical use within three or four years.”

Study abstract: http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/jid2015224a.html