We just got one step closer to video game style health packs.
A team of researchers at Tufts University have created a prototype smart bandage that’s capable of monitoring a wound and administering periodic drug treatments. The technology could one day transform medical treatment, enabling caregivers to closely monitor the condition of the patient while more actively treating it.
What we have demonstrated is a flexible smart bandage that has the patient’s customized drug cocktail in it. It senses how the wound is healing and delivers the drug in real time in appropriate quantity to make it heal faster.
Chronic wounds, which heal at unpredictable rates or disorderly stages, are often associated with lifestyle diseases like heart disease and obesity. They present a challenge to physicians who must identify the underlying cause while monitoring and treating the wound to avoid infection.
Increasing cases in diabetes and obesity has resulted in an epidemic of chronic wounds. 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 the team detects subtle biomarkers with embedded sensors that indicate wound healing. That data is processed by a microprocessor, which then communicates with a mobile device that can direct the bandage to release it’s medication load if deemed appropriate.
Smart bandages can sense if the skin is getting enough oxygen, pH levels, temperature levels, signs of inflammation and other biodata. This data is then processed according to the drug release schedules that a doctor has programmed in. This is likely the first ‘closed-loop’ bandage of its type.
We’ve seen various next-gen bandages over recent years that can detect infections and track how well a wound is healing. None have made it to market yet, and the team at Tufts acknowledge that they still have a long development ahead, but is hopeful for the wide range of use cases that their bandage can be used for.
It has applications in bed sores, burns, and surgical wounds, 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.
It’s a long way from an Auto-doc type of heal-all bandage patch, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.