Researchers at Tufts University in the US have led the development of a prototype smart bandage designed to actively monitor chronic wounds and even deliver drug treatments.
The technology, described in the journal Small, uses sensors to monitor pH and temperature – two key indicators of the infection and inflammation found in non-healing wounds.
A microprocessor reads the data from these sensors and can release drugs on demand from its carriers by heating the gel. The entire construct is attached to a transparent medical tape to form a flexible bandage under 3mm thick. According to the team, components were selected to keep the bandage low cost and disposable, except for the microprocessor, which can be re-used.
Wounds from burns, diabetes, and other medical conditions can overwhelm the regenerative capabilities of the skin and lead to persistent infections and amputations.
Patients are often older, non-ambulatory, and limited in their ability to provide self-care, yet non-healing wounds are typically treated in an outpatient setting or at home. The smart bandages could provide real-time monitoring and delivery of treatment with limited intervention from the patient or caregivers.
“We’ve been able to take a new approach to bandages because of the emergence of flexible electronics,” said Sameer Sonkusale, PhD professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University. “In fact, flexible electronics have made many wearable medical devices possible, but bandages have changed little since the beginnings of medicine. We are simply applying modern technology to an ancient art in the hopes of improving outcomes for an intractable problem.”
The smart bandages have been created and tested successfully under in vitro conditions. Pre-clinical studies are now underway to determine their in vivo clinical advantages.