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Wireless Smart Bandage Designed for Chronic Wounds

Hand bandage

(Rawpixel, Pexels.com)

14 Feb. 2020. A university lab developed a wirelessly-controlled programmable bandage that in tests with lab mice results in more diabetic wound closure than topical medicines. Researchers from University of Connecticut in Farmington and University of Nebraska in Lincoln describe the device in yesterday’s issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials (paid subscription required).

A team led by biomedical engineer Ali Tamayol, on the faculty at Connecticut and Nebraska, is seeking more effective treatments for chronic diabetic skin ulcers. Many people with diabetes develop slow-healing skin ulcers on their feet, a common complication of the disease. In people with diabetes, blood flow is reduced to the legs and feet, leading to nerve damage and reduced feeling in those regions, as well as slower healing of wounds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2014, some 108,000 Americans required amputation of a leg or foot because of complications from diabetes.

The authors note that despite advances in finding medications to treat chronic diabetic skin ulcers, patients often need different medications as healing progresses on the wound, which makes treating the wounds more complex. As a result, the researchers designed a bandage able to dispense different medications as needed to promote healing of the wound, yet could also be programmed or controlled by the wearer.

The bandage device created by the UConn-Nebraska team uses 3-D printed miniature needles that penetrate the outer layers of the patient’s wound. The needles are hollowed out and attached to a reservoir for medications made from polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, a soft, flexible biocompatible polymer used in many biomedical applications. The bandage’s needles are minimally invasive, causing little apparent pain or inflammation.

Different medications can be stored in the reservoir, with their application through the needles controlled by wireless commands from a nearby controller, with software that can be hosted by a smartphone. “This is an important step in engineering advanced bandages that can facilitate the healing of hard to treat wounds,” says Tamayol in a UConn statement. “The bandage does not need to be changed continuously.”

To prove the concept, the researchers tested their bandage device in lab mice induced with diabetic skin ulcers penetrating the entire skin thickness. For the study, the device dispensed vascular endothelial growth factors, or VEGFs, proteins that encourage regeneration of blood vessels, but also other types of tissue. The results show wounds on mice with the smart bandage healed to a greater extent, including more blood vessels and hair growth, than mice with comparable wounds treated with VEGF as a topical medication.

The authors say the findings indicate their programmable bandage device can reduce the burden of chronic diabetic skin wounds on individuals and health care systems. UConn adds that Tamayol applied for a patent on the technology.

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