A smart bandage rests on a gloved finger. Photo courtesy of Caltech.
March 24 (UPI) -- Development of a "smart bandage" not only can deliver medication to wounds, but also monitor the progress of healing and even create off a low-level electrical field to promote tissue repair, researchers said Friday.
The results of the research were detailed in a paper published in the journal Science Advances. Co-authors were California Institute of Technology postdoctoral scholar research associates, as well as medical engineering graduate students at the university of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.
Researchers said the smart bandage can be a boon especially for those who suffer from diabetes, which often stalls or even prohibits the wound healing process, and that could lead to more serious conditions.
Those who suffer from such ailments face as much as a $25 billion financial burden in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million in the United States have some form of diabetes, which is roughly 11.3% of the population.
The smart bandages were developed in the lab of Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering, a Heritage Medical Research Institute investigator and Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar.
The smart bandages are made from a flexible and stretchy polymer that contains embedded electronics and medication. Sensors on the electronics monitor for molecules like uric acid or lactate and conditions like pH level or temperature in the wound that could indicate inflammation or bacterial infection.
The device can transmit the data from the wound wirelessly to a nearby computer or smartphone for review by the patient or a medical professional, along with delivering an antibiotic or other medication stored within the bandage directly to the wound.
The low-level electrical field to stimulate faster healing is a big plus. Gao said.
"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," he said. "There is a demand for technology that can facilitate recovery."
Caltech said that in animal models under laboratory conditions, the smart bandages showed the ability to provide real-time updates about wound conditions, and the results were promising.
Gao said future research in collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine of at the University of Southern California will focus on improving the bandage technology and testing it on human patients.
"We have shown this proof of concept in small animal models, but down the road, we would like to increase the stability of the device and also test it on larger chronic wounds because the wound parameters and microenvironment may vary from site to site," Gao said.
Research funding came from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Heritage Medical Research Institute, the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center at Caltech, the Rothenberg Innovation Initiative at Caltech, and a Sloan Research Fellowship.