Researchers in the US have developed a portable electrospinning device that can manufacture a bandage and apply it directly to a wound.
The technology, devised by a group at Montana Technological University, is based on the electrospinning process, a method for developing polymer fibres for a wide variety of applications if biocompatible materials are used, the fibres produced can be used for biomedical applications.
Whilst electrospinning can be used to deposit biocompatible materials, it requires very high voltages, making direct deposition of the fibres onto biological material potentially dangerous. However, the group has overcome this challenge by developing a device with a confined electric field that can safely deposit bandages and drugs directly onto biological surfaces.
What’s more, instead of using the voltage difference between the tool and a surface to deposit the fibres, the new device uses air to spray the fibres out onto the surface, like a can of spray paint.
A paper on the instrument, dubbed the electrostatic and air-driven device, is published in the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B.
“In spray painting, pressurised gas forces direct particles toward a surface, creating a sort of deposited material,” said author Lane Huston. “Like spray painting, the EStAD device is used by directing its nozzle at the desired surface during operation, causing a fibre mat to be deposited onto that surface.”
By applying this spray paint-like mechanism, the electrospinning device can be used to cover wounds and provide controlled drug release over time. The deposited fibres adhere to materials containing internal moisture, such as human skin.
Though use of electrospun fibres for effective drug delivery has been established in the past, previous methods have required a wound to be placed directly into the electric field path. In that configuration, the only safe option is predepositing fibres onto a surface, such as parchment paper, to collect and store for later use. The device has been tested on a porcine skin incision as well as a gloved human hand and is the first demonstration of depositing the drug-delivering fibres directly onto a wound site safely.
The authors hope this new technology will be used to aid doctors, first responders and other medical personnel with wound treatment in rural areas, where immediate medical care may not be readily available.