A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska, Harvard Medical School and MIT have created a smart bandage that can be loaded with antibiotics, painkillers or other drugs and triggered by a smartphone.
The bandage, made of electrically conductive fibers individually coated in a drug-loaded hydrogel, could be used to deliver multiple drugs at a precise time and dose, the researchers touted.
To release the bandage’s cargo, a microcontroller is triggered by a smartphone or a wireless device, sending small amounts of voltage through a specific fiber. That process heats up the fiber and its hydrogel, releasing whatever medication it’s holding.
“This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release,” Ali Tamayol, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said in prepared remarks. “You can release multiple drugs with different release profiles. That’s a big advantage in comparison with other systems. What we did here was come up with a strategy for building a bandage from the bottom up.
“This is a platform that can be applied to many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine.”
The researchers ran an array of experiments to test their smart bandage, including one where they applied the bandage loaded with growth factor to wounded mice. The smart bandage regrew three times as much blood-rich tissue compared to a dry bandage.
In another experiment, the team showed that the bandage loaded with antibiotics could effectively kill off infection-causing bacteria.
Initially, the researchers see its device as being used to treat chronic skin wounds that arise in patients with diabetes.
“The medical cost associated with these types of wounds is tremendous,” Tamayol said. “So there is a big need to find solutions for that.”
Another potential use of the team’s product could be in helping soliders wounded in combat, the researchers suggested.
“Soldiers on the battlefield may be suffering from a number of different injuries or infections,” Tamayol added. “They might be dealing with a number of different pathogens. Imagine that you have a variable patch that has antidotes or drugs targeted toward specific hazards in the environment.”
The team has patented their design and the researchers are working to incorporate sensors that can measure blood sugar levels, acidity and other capabilities.