Skalak's lab leads the field in the area of microcirculation research - the study of blood flow through the body's tiniest blood vessels. With a five-year, $875,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Skalak and Morris set out to investigate the effect of magnetic therapy on microcirculation. Initially, they sought to examine a major claim made by companies that sell magnets: that magnets increase blood flow.
In their initial study, magnets of 70 milliTesla (mT) field strength - about 10 times the strength of the common refrigerator variety - were placed near the rats' blood vessels. Quantitative measurements of blood vessel diameter were taken both before and after exposure to the static magnetic fields - the force created by the magnets. Morris and Skalak found that the force had a significant effect: the vessels that had been dilated constricted, and the constricted vessels dilated, implying that the magnetic field could induce vessel relaxation in tissues with constrained blood supply, ultimately increasing blood flow.
Dilation of blood vessels is often a major cause of swelling at sites of trauma to soft tissues such as muscles or ligaments. The prior results on vessel constriction led Morris and Skalak to look closer at whether magnets, by limiting blood flow in such cases, would also reduce swelling.
Given the results of this latest study, Skalak envisions the magnets being particularly useful to high school, college and professional sports teams, as well as school nurses and retirement communities. He has plans to continue testing the effectiveness of magnets through
|Contact: Jeff Hanna|
University of Virginia