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Chronic wounds are an additional burden for patients who suffer from serious health problems. Treatments such as hydrocolloid dressings may help encourage the natural scarring process, but are not intended to cure wound infections, which can aggravate underlying diseases.
Chronic wounds are a health problem affecting people with malnutrition, diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease, etc. Severe infection of a wound can even lead to diabetic limb amputation. Population aging in several countries has made this a public health issue. A new smart treatment will help to heal chronic wounds and to monitor their condition more closely. The solution was created by researchers at Harvard Medical School, Tufts University in Boston and Purdue University in Indiana. The team designed a smart bandage that provides individualized treatment to heal the wound and monitor its progress in real time.
The bandage will be especially beneficial for the elderly or those who cannot travel to receive regular care. It will allow the medication to be administered according to the condition of the wound and signal when it becomes imperative to resort to another medical intervention.
To evaluate a treatment’s effectiveness, health care personnel normally monitor the wound area. This will now be done by the smart bandage.
Three significant indicators were taken into account in the design of this technology: pH, wound temperature, and oxygen levels. Indeed, the pH of a healing wound is different from that of an open infected wound. While a healthy wound is acidic and has a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, an infected wound is very alkaline, with a pH often well above 6.5. As for the temperature parameter, this indicates the level of inflammation inside and around the wound. The oxygen level is another indicator of wound progression.
With recent advances in flexible electronics, the team has created a lightweight bandage that is about 3 mm thick. It is a flexible 3D-printed polymer, which includes sensors for pH, temperature and oxygen levels. Information from the wound area is sent to a microcontroller. The values received are analyzed to regulate and actuate the release of a heat-resistant antibiotic. The antibiotic is embedded in hydrogel located in the area that is in contact with the wound. If needed, a component controlled by the microcontroller heats and delivers the amount of gel needed for healing. This way, the drug is administered following an automated and closed-loop diagnosis. The bandage can also communicate with a mobile device via Bluetooth.
Tests and Next Steps
The smart bandage has been successfully tested in in-vitro conditions. Preclinical studies are underway to evaluate the technology’s effectiveness compared to existing treatments.
The study, co-authored by Mostafalu P, Tamayol A, Rahimi R, Ochoa M, Khalilpour A, Kiaee G, Yazdi IK, Bagherifard S, Dokmeci MR, Ziaie B, Sonkusale SR and Khademhosseini A entitled “Smart Bandage for Monitoring and Treatment of Chronic Wounds”, was published on July 6, 2018, in small. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award and the ONR PECASE Award.