University of South Australia technology and engineering researchers have reportedly created “smart bandages,” which feature a range of sensors engineered to detect changes in a wound environment, alert a patient or medical staff by altering the color of the dressing, or sending a message to a smartphone.

The university states in a news release that prototypes have been developed for three different concepts. The first of these concepts builds specially created sensors into polymers that can be then be produced as thin films and integrated into the dressing material. A change of color occurs when the sensor detects changes in temperature or pH levels, which may indicate inflammation or infection.

The approach hinges on photonics rather than chromophores or fluorophores, the release notes. There are no dyes or chemicals. Rather, the color stems from the interaction of light within the multilayered structure of the sensor, mirroring the way in which one might observe color on a butterfly wing or beetle shell, the release says.

A second concept centers on a telemetric approach. The release reports that miniature electrical sensors incorporated into a dressing are designed to monitor changes in moisture levels in the wound and whether the pressure in a compression bandage has dropped below acceptable levels. The sensor holds a battery that connects through Bluetooth or a similar interface to a smartphone, allowing the message to be passed to another phone or database.

Nico Voelcker, professor and deputy director of the university’s Mawson Institute, explains that this may prove invaluable to community nurses and others who may monitor a variety of patients in a variety of places. “Rather than having to keep dropping in to check on a wound, they would be alerted if a dressing had become too wet to be effective or the pressure had dropped too much. And they would know whether to take immediate action or schedule it for the near future,” Voelcker says.

A third concept targets a point-of-care biosensor built to detect more complex parameters, such as the presence of bacteria or certain proteins and enzymes that are indicators of wound status. The medical staff, the release says, would only need to drop a small amount of wound fluid onto the sensor and wait a few minutes for a result. Since the amount of fluid needed is small, the test can be administered each time a dressing is changed.

The release adds that the researchers are also working on a related project that investigates the potential for the smart dressings to automatically release a treatment in response to changes in the wound environment; releasing an antibiotic, for example, if the temperature of the wound reaches a certain level.

[Source(s): Medical News Today, University of South Australia]