Scientists have developed a “smart” bandage that can heal a serious wound 25% faster than the average bandage.
The battery-free flexible device monitors the injury while delivering targeted healing treatments, a paper published in Nature Biotechnology reported.
“In sealing the wound, the smart bandage protects as it heals,” lead researcher Yuanwen Jiang, a Stanford University professor who is in the process of patenting the device, said in a release.
“But it is not a passive tool. It is an active healing device that could transform the standard of care in the management 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 US, while the team monitored the data in real time on a smartphone – all without wires.
“Across preclinical wound models in mice, the treatment group healed 25 percent faster and with a 50 percent improvement in skin remodeling,” Jiang told South West News Service.
“This was compared to controls. Furthermore, we observed activation of pro-regenerative genes in immune cell populations, which may promote recovery.”
The electronic layer of the “smart” dressing is only 100 microns thick – equivalent to human hair – and contains a microcontroller, radio antenna, memory, electrical stimulator, biosensors and other components.
Underneath lies a cleverly designed, rubbery, skin-like hydrogel that delivers healing electrical stimulation and collects the 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 tissue.
The “smart” bandage was also found to stimulate skin growth to speed up the closure of the open wound by circulating blood flow to the site, which also dramatically reduces fright.
Research has shown that the link works in part by activating an anti-inflammatory gene called SELENOP, which has been found to aid in pathogen clearance and wound repair.
It also turns on another gene called APOE, which has been shown to promote muscle and soft tissue growth.
The circuits in the device can identify potential problems, such as infection, using temperature detectors that inform the central processing unit to amplify the electrical stimulation.
The design also includes a polymer to securely adhere to a wound when needed and pull away harmlessly when heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
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 dressing accelerates healing, but it also tracks how the wound is improving,” said study co-author Artem A. Trotsyuk, now a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
“We think it represents a new modality that will enable new biological discoveries and the exploration of previously difficult-to-test hypotheses about the human healing process.”