A prototype bandage designed to actively monitor the condition of chronic wounds and deliver appropriate drug treatments to improve the chances of healing has been developed by Tufts University engineers.
The researchers designed the bandages with heating elements and thermoresponsive drug carriers that they say can deliver tailored treatments in response to embedded pH and temperature sensors that track infection and inflammation.
The hope is these smart bandages could provide real time monitoring and delivery of treatment with limited intervention from the patient or caregivers.
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.
Temperature is also an important parameter, providing information on the level of inflammation in and around the wound. While the smart bandages in this study combine pH and temperature sensors, Prof Sonkusale and his team of engineers have also developed flexible sensors for oxygenation, which they say can be integrated into the bandage. Inflammation could also be tracked not just by heat, but by specific biomarkers as well.
A microprocessor reads the data from the sensors and can release drug on demand from its carriers by heating the gel. The entire construct is attached to a transparent medical tape to form a flexible bandage less than 3mm thick. Components were selected to keep the bandage low cost and disposable, except for the microprocessor, which can be re-used, says the Tufts team.
The smart bandages have been created and tested successfully under in vitro conditions, the team says. Pre-clinical studies are now underway to determine their in vivo clinical advantages in facilitating healing compared to traditional bandages and wound care products.