Scientists have developed a ‘smart’ bandage that can heal a serious wound 25% faster than an average bandage.
The flexible, battery-free device monitors the injury and simultaneously delivers targeted healing treatments, reported an article published in Nature Biotechnology.
“By sealing the wound, the smart bandage protects while it heals,” lead researcher Yuanwen Jiang, a Stanford University professor who is in the process of patenting the device, said in a statement.
“But it’s not a passive tool. It is an active healing device that could transform the standard of care in the treatment of chronic wounds.
The high-tech dressing repairs tissue by combining electrical stimulation and biosensors.
A miniature prototype of the advanced medical technology was tested on mice in the United States as the team tracked data in real time on a smart phone, all without the need for wires.
“In preclinical wound models in mice, the treatment group healed 25% faster and with a 50% improvement in skin remodeling,” Jiang told South West News Service.
“It was compared to the controls. Additionally, we observed the activation of pro-regenerative genes in immune cell populations, which may improve recovery.
The electronic layer of the “smart” bandage is only 100 microns thick – the equivalent of a human hair – and includes a microcontroller, radio antenna, memory, electrical stimulator, biosensors and other components.
Underneath is a cleverly designed, rubbery, skin-like hydrogel that delivers healing electrical stimulation and collects biosensor data. Electrical stimulation is known to limit bacterial infections and repair damaged tissue.
The researchers found that the stimulation increased the immune system’s white blood cell populations, namely monocytes in the blood and macrophages in the tissues.
The ‘smart’ dressing has also been shown to stimulate skin growth to speed open wound closure by circulating blood flow to the site, which also significantly reduces scarring.
Research has shown that the bandage works in part by triggering an anti-inflammatory gene called SELENOP, which helps eliminate pathogens and repair wounds.
It also activates another gene called APOE, which has been shown to increase muscle and soft tissue growth.
The device’s circuitry is able to identify potential problems, such as an infection, through the use of temperature sensors that inform the central processing unit to amplify the electrical stimulation.
The design also contains a polymer to securely stick to a wound when needed and remove safely when warmed to 104 degrees Fahrenheight.
The researchers hope to improve on the “promising proof-of-concept design” and push it to mass production.
“With stimulation and sensing in one device, the smart bandage not only speeds up healing, but it also tracks wound improvement,” said co-author Artem A. Trotsyuk, now a professor at the University of Arizona to Tucson.
“We believe this represents a new modality that will allow new biological discoveries and the exploration of previously difficult to test hypotheses about the human healing process.”
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