Can bandages be ‘smart’? Yes indeed, read here how

A smart bandage with wound covering component (right), containing sensors and a drug carrier, and a microprocessor (left) that interprets sensor input and triggers drug delivery

Scientists have developed a smart bandage that can not only actively monitor chronic wounds but also tailor the treatment to improve the chances of healing. The research, published in the journal Small, is aimed at transforming bandaging from a traditionally passive treatment to a more active one.

These bandages are different from the white gauzy or the sticky ones that everyone is familiar with. Smart bandages are integrated with pH and temperature sensors and electronically triggered drug release are designed to improve healing.

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Chronic skin wounds from burns, diabetes and other medical conditions lower the regenerative capabilities of the skin leading to persistent infections and amputations.

Now researchers at Tufts University have designed bandages with heating elements and thermo-responsive drug carriers that can deliver tailored treatments in response to embedded pH and temperature sensors that track infection and inflammation.

The pH of a chronic wound is one of the key parameters for monitoring its progress. Normal healing wounds fall within the range of pH 5.5 to 6.5, whereas non-healing infected wounds can have pH well above 6.5.

Non-healing chronic wounds are a significant medical problem. Patients are often older and limited in their ability to provide self-care, yet non-healing wounds are typically treated in an outpatient setting or at home. The smart bandages could provide real time monitoring and delivery of treatment with limited intervention from the patient or caregivers. This has been possible because of development of flexible electronics.

Temperature is also an important parameter, providing information on the level of inflammation in and around the wound. Inflammation could also be tracked not just by heat, but by specific biomarkers as well.

The bandage is a transparent medical tape less than 3 mm thick. Components were selected to keep the bandage low cost and disposable, except for the microprocessor, which can be re-used. It has pH and temperature sensors and antibiotic drug delivery.

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