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Smart bandage for better, faster healing
October 15, 2017, 4:10 pm

Researchers from the University of Nebraska, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT) have designed a smart versatile bandage that could eventually heal various chronic wounds or battlefield injuries more efficiently and quickly.

The bandage consists of electrically conductive fibers coated in a gel that can be individually loaded with infection-fighting antibiotics, tissue-regenerating growth factors, painkillers or other medications.

A microcontroller no larger than a postage stamp, which could be triggered by a smartphone or other wireless device, sends small amounts of voltage through a chosen fiber. That voltage heats the fiber and its hydrogel, releasing whatever cargo it contains.

A single bandage could accommodate multiple medications tailored to a specific type of wound, the researchers said, while offering the ability to precisely control the dose and delivery schedule of those medications.

The combination of customization and control could substantially improve or accelerate the healing process, through its dose-dependent drug delivery. The ability to release multiple drugs with different release profiles is a big advantage in comparison with other systems and has the potential to be applied in many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine, said the researchers.

The team added that their smart bandage could be used to treat chronic skin wounds that stem from diabetes, as well on the battlefield where its versatility and customizability, whether to stimulate faster healing of bullet and shrapnel wounds or prevent the onset of infection in remote environments could be very beneficial.

To evaluate the potential advantages of their smart bandage, the research team ran a series of experiments. In one, the researchers applied a smart bandage loaded with growth factor to wounded mice. When compared with a dry bandage, the team's version regrew three times as much of the blood-rich tissue critical to the healing process. In another experiment, an antibiotic-loaded version of the bandage was found to eradicate infection-causing bacteria.

Though the researchers have patented their design, it will need to undergo further animal and then human testing before going to market. That could take several years, though the fact that most of the design's components are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration should streamline the process.

In the meantime, the researchers are also working to incorporate thread-based sensors that can measure glucose, pH and other health-related indicators of skin tissue. Integrating that capability would allow the team to create a bandage that could autonomously deliver proper treatments.


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