Smart bandage monitors and treats chronic wounds

06 April 2023

Smart bandage, wound healing

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a smart bandage for chronic wounds, such as those sometimes experienced by patients with diabetes. The bandage is flexible and stretchy, but contains electronic components that can monitor the wound for signs of infection, including abnormal temperature, increased uric acid levels, and changes in pH. The bandage can transmit these data to a smartphone to alert a clinician, but cleverly it can also begin to administer treatment, including releasing antibiotics that are stored on-board and applying an electrical field to the wound bed to encourage tissue healing.

Chronic wounds are a difficult experience for patient and clinician alike. They are difficult to heal, painful, and uncomfortable. Such wounds can occur in patients with diabetes, often in the extremities where circulation is poor. Unfortunately, higher blood glucose levels mean that such patients can be more prone to bacterial infection in chronic wounds, and a small scratch can develop into a larger ulcer. Other patients that tend to experience chronic wounds include those who have suffered burn injuries that can be prone to further complications.

There is a huge impetus for researchers to develop new technologies that can assist with the healing process and fight infections in chronic wounds. “There are many different types of chronic wounds, especially in diabetic ulcers and burns that last a long time and cause huge issues for the patient,” said Wei Gao, a researcher involved in the study. “There is a demand for technology that can facilitate recovery.”

To address this, these researchers have created the smart bandage, an advanced wound dressing that can monitor and treat chronic wounds. The bandage is made from stretchy polymers and flexible electronic components, and it even contains a depot for antibiotic drugs. If the bandage detects signs of infection, such as a raised temperature in the wound bed, or increased levels of uric acid or lactate, it will initiate an alert and treatment program.

This involves alerting a clinician about the infection, and then delivering drug treatment in the form of local antibiotics. The final step is to apply an electrical field that can encourage wound healing.

“We have showed this proof of concept in small animal models, but down the road, we would like to increase the stability of the device but also to test it on larger chronic wounds because the wound parameters and microenvironment may vary from site to site,” said Gao.

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