Electronic Bandages Speed Healing by 30 Percent in Animal Study

When it comes to wounds, sometimes they just won’t heal on their own. These wounds can cause patients long-term suffering and may linger on indefinitely if they’re not treated successfully. When this happens, they can go on to become infected and lead to surgical intervention or even become fatal. Lesions like these can stem from things like burns, certain diabetic ulcers, and surgical injuries,

Current therapies frequently require the need for surgery and/or lead to the overuse of antibiotics, which can contribute to the issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Chronic wounds affect tens of millions of people,” noted California Institute of Technology biomedical engineer Wei Gao. “There’s an urgent need for personalized wound treatment.”

wounded hand
Photo: Pixabay/coolnauvisingh

For a recent study published in the journal Science Advances, Gao and his fellow researchers used rodents to test a “smart bandage” that could help chronic wounds heal faster and easier for sufferers. The material consists of a stretchable polymer patch containing medication that adheres to the skin, but they also contain a thin electronic layer to monitor and wirelessly transmit data concerning the wound’s progress and condition.

The experimental bandage builds on previous efforts to promote healing through electricity. This process is known as electrotherapy, and it works by attracting immune cells and skin cells to the wound and by boosting cell growth and division.

A study published in 2022 discussed a bandage that monitored temperature and conductivity, using the collected data to control the delivery of electrotherapy. It was led by Yuanwen Jiang, founder of The Jiang Group, an interdisciplinary team working in the field of bioelectronics.

lab mouse
Photo: Pixabay/tiburi

The newest research adds biochemical sensing capabilities to the materials. So, in addition to temperature and pH measurements, the bandage’s biosensor is able to monitor levels of ammonium, glucose, lactate, and uric acid. These combined measurements can provide info on infection, inflammation, and the stage of healing, alerting clinicians to issues in real time.

“Biochemical signals open up new opportunities because you’re able to really probe what’s happening on a molecular level,” Jiang explained. “That’s the key novelty here.”

For their part, Gao and his colleagues added an electroactive gel that releases an anti-inflammatory/antimicrobial drug when stimulated via an electrode while another electrode directly stimulates the wound.

white mice
Photo: Pixabay/Nature_Blossom

The researchers tested the new bandage on rodents with diabetic wounds and discovered that it could accurately detect changes in inflammation and metabolic states at various stages of healing. The best part? The bandage’s combined treatments fully healed the rodent wounds in just two weeks! They also noted that each treatment achieved at least partial healing within the two-week timeframe, and that animals without the treatment did not heal.

The next step would be to investigate the bandage’s biosensor durability in human patients with chronic lesions. “Requirements for the lifetime of the device are very different between rodents and human subjects,” Jiang continued. “Stability over that extended period has not been tested yet.”

dog wearing cone
Photo: Pixabay/Counselling

In the meantime, the team of scientists is working toward improving accuracy and stability. “We hope to apply this smart bandage technology in humans in the next year,” Gao stated. “Hopefully, the information we get can really benefit people with chronic wounds.”

If it already works on animals, and they’re striving to make it applicable to humans, the bandages could possibly be used in veterinary medicine in the not-so-distant future. To learn more, check out the video below.

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