Smart wireless bandages could help heal chronic wounds

Researchers at Stanford University have combined wireless electrical stimulation and biosensors to create a new type of bandage that can treat slow-healing injuries.

The medical device designed at Standford University has shown promise in accelerating tissue repair by monitoring the wound healing process and treating the wound simultaneously.

The smart bandage is made up of wireless circuitry that uses temperature sensors to monitor the progression of wound healing. If the wound is less healed or infection is detected, sensors inform a central processing unit to apply more electrical stimulation across the wound bed to speed tissue closure and reduce infection.

The researchers were able to plot sensor data in real time on a smartphone, all without the need for wires.

In a paper published in the magazine natural biotechnologies, the team said their device promotes faster wound closure, increases new blood flow to damaged tissue, and improves skin recovery by significantly reducing scar formation.

The device, therefore, could be of great use to people suffering from in infections, diseases such as diabetes and suppressed immune systems, which often lead to slow wound healing processes and costs equal to $25 billion a year.

“In sealing the wound, the smart bandage protects as it heals,” he said Yuan Wen Jiang, co-first author of the study. “But it’s not a passive tool. It’s a active healing device that could transform the standard of care in the treatment of chronic wounds.”

The bandage has a small electronic layer, including a microcontroller unit (MCU), radio antenna, memory, electrical stimulator, biosensors and other components, is just 100 microns thick, about the thickness of a single coat of paint at the latex.

All of that circuitry sits atop a cleverly engineered hydrogel that’s integrated to both deliver healing electrical stimulation to injured tissue and collect real-time biosensor data. The polymer in the hydrogel is carefully engineered to adhere firmly to the wound surface when needed, but to release cleanly and gently when heated to a few degrees above body temperature.

Through electrical stimulation, also known as galvanotaxis, scientists were able to accelerate the migration of keratinocytes to the wound site, limiting bacterial infections and preventing the development of biofilms on wound surfaces, to proactively promote the growth of fabrics.

As the wound heals, the smart bandage senses conductivity and temperature changes in the skin.

“With stimulation and sensing in one device, the smart bandage accelerates healing, but also tracks wound improvement,” he said Artem Trotsyuk, co-first author of the study. “We think it represents a new modality that will enable new biological discoveries and the exploration of previously difficult-to-test hypotheses about the human healing process.”

Currently, the smart bandage is just a proof of concept. In subsequent phases, the team will look to increase the size of the device to human scale, reduce costs and solve long-term data storage problems, all necessary to move to mass production.

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