Taking care of a cut or rub usually means swapping out the bandage a few times, and perhaps putting a little healing cream or hydrogel on there. But what if the dres could dispense that stuff on its own? That’s the idea behind a smart bandage now being tested by technologists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard and MIT.
Instead of plain sterile cotton or other fibers, this dres is made of “composite fibers with a core electrical heater covered by a layer of hydrogel containing thermoresponsive narcotic carriers, ” which really says it all.
It acts as a regular bandage, to defend the injury from exposure and so on, but attached to it is a stamp-sized microcontroller. When prompted by an app( or an onboard timer, or conceivably sensors woven into the bandage ), the microcontroller sends a voltage through certain of the fibers, warming them and activating the medications lying dormant in the hydrogel.
Those drugs could be anything from topical anesthetics to antibiotics to most sophisticated things like growth hormones that accelerate mending. More voltage, more medication — and each fiber can carry a different one.
“This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent medication release, ” said UN-L’s Ali Tamayol in a news release. “You can release multiple narcotics with different release profiles. That’s a big advantage in comparison with other systems.”
In a newspaper published in the periodical Advanced Functional Materials, the team documents how in tests, critters( not humans — those exams come later) healed better when given the active bandage. They also made sure that the heat didn’t affect the healing process or the medication.
For ordinary rubs a normal bandage( or plaster, for our friends across the pond) is likely still more than sufficient — this is for people whose healing processes are inhibited, or for whom frequent dressing changes are impossible or inconvenient.
Next up, in addition to further testing to satisfy the FDA, is analyse how to integrate sensors with the fibers, to measure blood glucose levels, pH and other indicators of how the healing process is going. Maybe soon your bandage will even include a progress bar.
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