Bandages are crucial for repairing skin wounds; they cover up areas of injury, prevent infection, provide protection and generally help speed up the healing process. But In this world of "smart" technology, these all-important healers appear somewhat antiquated.
How else can you explain the fact that to check on the underlying injury, the bandage always has to be ripped off - an endeavor that is both time-consuming and painful. Now thanks to a collaboration between researchers from the USA, South Korea and Germany, there may soon be a new "smart" bandage available - one that keeps doctors informed about the healing progress, by lighting up!
But in order to understand how this intelligent bandage works, one needs to know the healing process. Whenever a person’s skin is damaged (through cuts, burns, scrapes, etc.), the body responds by increasing the blood supply around the area. This ensures that the cells have the extra glucose and oxygen they need, to regenerate. Without these two crucial components, wounds would form chronic sores and never be able to heal. Therefore, measuring oxygenation levels (which indirectly measures glucose levels), at the location of the wound, could enable doctors to monitor the healing. Past efforts at attempting this have been unsuccessful either because they were too invasive or too expensive for practical use.
That's the reason this radical spray-on bandage that was unveiled in the October edition of Biomedical Optics Express by Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor Conor L. Evans, is generating some excitement. The bandage is applied in two layers. A fast-drying fluid that contains phosphors and several dyes is gently sprayed on the wound first. The fluid that dries into a thin film within a minute, forms a transparent barrier over the injury. The wound is then sealed using bandage material, which ensures that the only oxygen the phosphors film is exposed to, is from the wound itself.
In order to monitor the healing progress, all the doctor has to do is use a camera or smartphone with a flash to take a photo of the wound. The light excites the phosphorescent molecules and causes them to react with the oxygen levels in the wound to emit light - The higher the oxygen level, the brighter the light.
The colored dyes in the fluid serve a dual purpose - they eliminate the guesswork about how bright the light is and also, allow medical practitioners to monitor oxygen levels along the entire wound to ensure it is healing uniformly. A bluish-green light indicates that the wound is receiving the right amount of oxygen, while a red one alerts the doctor that things are not going so well.
Though the product has thus far been tested only on animals, the researchers are hoping to start human trials soon. If successful, the "smart" bandage that was originally developed for wounded soldiers could be used for a wide range of applications - from monitoring skin grafts on burn victims to keeping tabs on patients that suffer from restricted blood supplies.
Furthermore, researchers are also planning to extend its capability so that in addition to keeping track of oxygen, the bandage would also provide doctors with instant information about the patient's pH levels, bacterial load and other important data points needed to monitor serious injuries. Their ultimate goal is to create a bandage that will not only help heal, but also be capable of releasing drugs at the point of injury - Now that is what we call smart!
Resources: geek.com,lockerdome.com, gizmag.com