Technology is continuing to transform medicine. Researchers at Tufts University have shared a prototype of a smart bandage that can monitor chronic wounds and release appropriate drugs to improve their healing. This could be beneficial for older patients with slower healing since it boosts the healing process by transforming bandages from a passive treatment into an active process.
Among the features of the bandages, there are heating elements and embedded pH and temperature sensors that can detect inflammation and infection and dispense the proper treatment as necessary. The researchers of the project, who were led by Pooria Mostafalu, said they believe this could have a significant impact in the treatment of chronic wounds. "The wound environment is dynamic, but their healing rate can be enhanced by administration of therapies at the right time.”
Co-author of the study, Tufts University professor Sameer Sonkusale, told CNET that the emergence of flexible electronics was the main reason why this new approach to bandages happened, and that is a very positive thing. Sameer stated that "Flexible electronics have made many wearable medical devices possible, but bandages have changed little since the beginnings of medicine.”
The new approach is especially promising because it may be able to help prevent amputations. Chronic skin wounds, which are often caused by diabetes and burns, are one of the leading causes of amputations. The importance of the device is also remarkable because of how common these kinds of wounds are, in particular among older patients - who are the least capable of taking care of themselves. A recent study showed that nearly fifteen percent of Medicare beneficiaries had some kind of chronic wound.
Tested under in-vitro conditions, the smart bandages had very successful results. Now they are being tested in pre-clinical studies to determine if they actually have a clinical advantage in promoting healing when in comparison to traditional bandages and other wound care products.
Tech being incorporated in bandages isn’t a new thing. In 2014, a smart paint-on bandage that changes color as wounds heal was developed by a team of researchers of Harvard Medical School. And in 2017, engineers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard and MIT have developed a smart bandage capable of dispensing medicine on demand.