A smart bandage, capable of monitoring a wound and delivering periodic drug treatments, has been developed by a team of researchers at Tufts University. Currently just a prototype, the technology detailed in a recent paper in the journal Small could someday help transform medical treatment, enabling a doctor to more closely monitor her patient’s condition, while more actively treating it.
“What we have demonstrated is a flexible smart bandage that has your drug cocktail in it,” Sameer Sonkusale, a Tufts engineering professors who led the project, told Digital Trends. “It senses how the wound is healing and delivers the drug in real time in appropriate quantity to make it heal faster.”
As lifestyle diseases like obesity and heart disease increase, so too do cases of chronic wounds, which heal at unpredictable rates and in disorderly stages. Chronic wounds present a challenge to physicians, who must identify the underlying cause of the chronic states, while monitoring and treating the wound to avoid infection.
“Increasing cases in diabetes and obesity has resulted in an epidemic of chronic wounds,” Sonkusale said. “Chronic wounds are one of the leading causes of amputations outside of war settings. We believe smart flexible bioelectronic technology has the potential to improve the health outcome of these wounds.”
The smart bandage developed by Sonkusale and his team uses sensors to detect subtle biomarkers that signal wound healing. A microprocessor reads data captured by the sensors, communicates with a mobile device, and can direct the bandage to release medication if deemed appropriate.
For example, Sonkusale said, “It can sense whether it is getting enough oxygen. Is it at the right pH level, which is a sign of abnormal healing? What is the temperature near the wound? Is there any inflammation? All of this info is communicated to a central processor where the doctor has programmed drug release such as an antibiotic, or growth factor, to improve healing. This closed loop ‘sense-then-respond’ bandage is probably the first of its kind.”
Over the passed few years, researchers have demonstrated various next-gen bandages that can detect infections and track how well a wound is healing. These futuristic patches haven’t yet made it to the market and Sonkusale acknowledges that his still has plenty of development ahead, but, once complete, he envisions a wide range of use cases involving chronic wounds.
“It has applications in bed sores, burns, and surgical wounds,” he said. “It can reduce complications from infections and reduce the number of amputations. And all of this is possible because your bandage intervened appropriately at the right time to make your wounds heal faster.”