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Cheap ‘smart’ bandage heals infected, chronic wounds — fast

We’re truly on the cutting edge of medicine, now.

A “smart” bandage is on the horizon, as researchers develop a product that can monitor healing and provide antibiotics to the injury site, as well as stimulate the growth of tissue with electrical signals.

Led by professor of medical engineering Dr. Wei Gao, California Institute of Technology scientists have manufactured a new technology that could help our bodies heal more efficiently from cuts, scrapes and injuries.

Their high-tech polymer bandages would, in theory, heal wounds more quickly and affordably, especially for those with certain chronic illnesses that are known to slow down the healing process, such as diabetes.

It’s been estimated that 6.5 million Americans experience long-term, chronic wounds every year.

“There are many different types of chronic wounds — especially in diabetic ulcers and burns that last a long time and cause huge issues for the patient,” Gao told SWNS. “There is a demand for technology that can facilitate recovery.”

Smart bandage on finger
Northwestern University / SWNS

“We have shown this proof of concept in small animal models, but, down the road, we would like to increase the stability of the device and also to test it on larger chronic wounds because the wound parameters and microenvironment may vary from site to site.”

The researchers tested the barely-there bandage – which is “biocompatible, mechanically flexible, stretchable [and] skin-conformal” – on rodents in a study on Friday.

“The device consists of two parts – one reusable flexible printed circuit board and one disposable patch,” said Dr. Gao, per The Guardian. “The disposable patch contains biosensors, electrodes and drug-loaded hydrogels.”

The scientists used the bandages on the wounds of both mice and rats with diabetes, before and after infection, for the study, demonstrating the “smart” bandage’s incredible potential. It was able to monitor various biomarkers such as temperature, pH and other factors of wound healing to help doctors track inflammation and burgeoning infection.

In the study, the rodents were given antibiotics and electrical stimulation. The mice given the special treatment showed better healing progress than the rodents without the bandages.

Smart bandage on hand
Northwestern University / SWNS

If used on humans, the bandage would not only be able to gather data and transmit to a smart device or computer for patient and doctor review, but it would also deliver medication or a “low-level electrical field.” Previous studies have shown that electrical stimulation, especially when used in a bandage, expedites healing.

All told, researchers estimate the cost of the electronic patch would be less than $100.

However, the impressive scientific feat isn’t expected to hit the market for another five or 10 years.