Smart bandage can monitor chronic wounds and dispense drugs

Researchers are hoping that this new tech might reduce amputations.

Chronic or slow-healing wounds are an increasing problem around the world. That's why a team of researchers at Tufts University is working on a smart bandage that can keep track of what is going on with a wound and release treatments as necessary.

According to a recent article in the journal Small, researchers led by Pooria Mostafalu sought to increase the healing rate of chronic wounds by creating a smart bandage. "The wound environment is dynamic, but their healing rate can be enhanced by administration of therapies at the right time," the article says.

The smart bandage can monitor both temperature and pH of the wound. If it detects a change, it can diagnose the problem and dispense drugs as necessary, thanks to a central processor, which a doctor can program to administer treatment if certain conditions are detected. "A stimuli‐responsive drug releasing system comprising of a hydrogel loaded with thermo‐responsive drug carriers and an electronically controlled flexible heater is also integrated into the wound dressing to release the drugs on‐demand," the paper says. The bandage will also monitor treatment to determine if further steps are necessary. It can also provide real-time status updates via Bluetooth.

"Chronic wounds are one of the leading causes of amputations outside of war settings," author Sameer Sonkusale told Digital Trends. Flexible and responsive bandages that can monitor a wound and deliver real-time treatment could be key in reducing the number of these amputations because they can treat a chronic wound quickly to prevent infection and promote healing.

Introducing tech into bandages isn't a new concept; there are quite a few of these smart wound dressings floating around. This idea does have a lot of promise though, especially because the bandage itself can dispense treatment rather than waiting for a doctor's response. It will be awhile before it is available for real-world application (and it's quite possible that it never will be.) According to the article, the next step for the smart bandage is to test the technology on chronic wounds in animals to see if it is as effective as it was in the experiments.