A new smart bandage was developed at Caltech to make treating chronic wounds easier and more effective.

A smart bandage developed at Caltech may make the treatment of chronic wounds easier, more effective, and less expensive.

The smart bandages were developed in the lab of Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering, Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, and Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar.

“There are many different types of chronic wounds, especially in diabetic ulcers and burns, that last a long time and cause huge issues for the patient,” said Gao. “There is a demand for technology that can facilitate recovery.”

Unlike a typical bandage, which might only consist of layers of absorbent material, the smart bandages are made from a flexible and stretchy polymer containing embedded electronics and medication. The electronics allow the sensor to monitor for molecules like uric acid or lactate and conditions like pH level or temperature in the wound that may indicate inflammation or bacterial infection.

The bandage can respond in one of three ways:

  • First, it can transmit the gathered data from the wound wirelessly to a nearby computer, tablet, or smartphone for review by the patient or a medical professional.
  • Second, it can deliver an antibiotic or other medication stored within the bandage directly to the wound site to treat the inflammation and infection.
  • Third, it can apply a low-level electrical field to the wound to stimulate tissue growth resulting in faster healing.

In animal models under laboratory conditions, the smart bandages could provide real-time updates about wound conditions and the animals’ metabolic states to researchers. It also sped up the healing of chronic infected wounds similar to those found in humans.

Gao said the results are promising and added that future research in collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine of USC would focus on improving the bandage technology and testing it on human patients, whose therapeutic needs may differ from those of lab animals.

“We have shown this proof of concept in small animal models, but down the road, we would like to increase the stability of the device but also to test it on larger chronic wounds because the wound parameters and microenvironment may vary from site to site,” said Gao.

The paper describing the research, “A stretchable wireless wearable bioelectronic system for multiplexed monitoring and combination treatment of infected chronic wounds,” appears in the March issue of the journal Science Advances.

Photo courtesy of Caltech