A new kind of smart bandage developed at Caltech may make treatment of chronic wounds easier, more effective, and less expensive.
Most of the time, when someone gets a cut, scrape, or burn, the body heals on its own. Sometimes, diabetes can interfere with the healing process and create wounds that could become infected and fester. A new kind of smart bandage developed in the lab of Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of medical engineering, Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, and Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar, aims to facilitate faster recovery. Unlike a typical bandage, which might only consist of layers of absorbent material, the smart bandages are made from a flexible and stretchy polymer containing embedded electronics and medication. The electronics allow the sensor to monitor for molecules like uric acid or lactate and conditions like pH level or temperature in the wound that may be indicative of inflammation or bacterial infection. The bandage can respond in one of three ways: First, it can transmit the gathered data from the wound wirelessly to a nearby computer, tablet, or smartphone for review by the patient or a medical professional. Second, it can deliver an antibiotic or other medication stored within the bandage directly to the wound site to treat the inflammation and infection. Third, it can apply a low-level electrical field to the wound to stimulate tissue growth resulting in faster healing.
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Chronic wounds are not just debilitating for the people suffering from them. They are also a drain on healthcare systems, representing a $25 billion financial burden in the U.S. alone each year.
The team has completed tests in small animal models and the results are promising. Future research in collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine of USC will focus on improving the bandage technology and testing it on human patients.