image: Nebraska Today

The new intelligent bandages introduced by scientists, is the breaking news in the medical world. Controlled by mobile devices, these bandages can heal almost every wound and the healing process is faster compared to the conventional bandages.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School, and MIT came up with the ingenious bandage which has the potential to heal chronic wound and even the battlefield lacerations. Its innovative design, allows it to be loaded with antibiotics, painkillers, tissue-regenerating growth factors and other medications.

Design

The smart bandage consists of electrically conductive fibers which are coated in gel. The can be individually loaded with antibiotics, painkillers, tissue-regenerating growth factors. A microcontroller in the bandage, the size of a postage stamp, could be triggered by a smartphone or other wireless device. The bandage is capable of dose dependent drug release and can accommodate multiple medications personalized to a specific wound.

Ali Tamayol, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Nebraska says, “You can release multiple drugs with different release profiles. That’s a big advantage in comparison with other systems. What we did here was come up with a strategy for building a bandage from the bottom up,” and “This is a platform that can be applied to many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine.”

Advanced Functional Materials

Working

The electrically conductive fibers in the bandage covered in gel, are triggered from the wireless device. This sends small amounts of voltages through a selected fiber, the heat from the voltages, heats up the fiber and its hydrogel, thereby releasing any medication that it held. Added to this, you can control the dosage and delivery schedule of the medications. Hence a perfect blend of biology and technology, or the more likely term Biotechnology.

Treatment

Initially the team aimed at making the bandage deal with chronic wounds which curtail from diabetes. A rough estimate of 25% of American population suffers from these wounds and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that diabetes cases will double or triple by the year 2050. These wounds have costly medical expenditures; the smart bandage is a good solution to the problem. However, not only diabetics, but the bandages aid those wounded in combat; whether to stimulate faster healing of bullet and shrapnel wounds or prevent the onset of infection in remote environments.

Experimentation

The smart bandage has gone through a number of tests and experiments for the scientists to determine its true potential and usage.

In one such experiment the bandage was applied on a wounded mouse. The bandage was loaded with growth factor; it was observed that tissue regeneration occurred 3 times faster than the normal dry bandage. Another experiment showed that the antibiotic loaded bandage can effectively fight off bacteria. While in another it was confirmed that the heat needed to release the gels did not affect the medicine potency.

Even though the bandage design is patented, it has to undergo further experimentation on animals, then on humans to be finally released into the market. Which will probably take several years, but it is hoped it wouldn’t be long before we see the product in action in our everyday lives.

In the meantime the scientists want to incorporate thread-based sensors in the bandage. This would be to detect the blood sugar level, monitor the pH and some other health related indicators of the skin tissue. If successful, this bandage would act as mini clinic, catering to a daily routine checkup and at the same time providing treatment to your wounds. The study was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. If you want to know more of how the things work and get an idea of researchers in action behind the scenes, go through the study in Advanced Functional Materials.

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