American researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois have developed a small, flexible bandage that accelerates healing by applying electrotherapy directly to the wound. Once healing is complete, this connected dressing, which is entirely biodegradable, is absorbed by the body.
This electronic bandage, the first of its kind, can accelerate healing by nearly 30%. At least that's what early tests on mice suggest. The bandage also monitors the healing process, and can alert clinicians to potential problems in real time via a dedicated mobile application.
For this application, a miniaturised system of electrotherapy was developed. It consists of two electrodes: one, flower-shaped, which is placed just above the wound bed, and the other, ring-shaped, which is positioned on the surrounding healthy tissue. The rest of the device contains various sensors as well as a contactless communication system (NFC) to transmit the data needed to monitor healing.
This approach facilitates the healing of stubborn wounds through electrical stimulation that restores the body’s normal signals, prompting new cells to migrate to the wound bed. Remotely, the physician can decide when to apply electrical stimulation and monitor the healing progress.
Normally, the healing process should lead to a gradual decrease in the “current measurement”. If the current measurement remains high, there could be a problem – signalling for doctors to check on it immediately. Once the healing process is complete, the part of the dressing in contact with the wound will have completely dissolved. All its components, including the electrodes, are absorbed by the body without causing it any harm. In this way, the bandage is said to be bioresorbable.
In the future, this type of device could be particularly useful for diabetics, whose infections can be difficult to treat, and rather dangerous in case of complications. But, for the moment, the researchers plan to continue testing their discovery on animals, before taking the step towards humans. Their work has already been published in the journal Science Advances.
There are currently several projects aimed at developing future connected wound dressings and bandages in the works in various phases. One example is research currently being carried out at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and sponsored by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has led to the development of a new type of patch equipped with sensors capable of transmitting information such as the temperature, hydration level and acidity (pH) of a wound. – AFP Relaxnews