The bandage consists of electrically conductive fibers coated in a gel that can be individually loaded with antibiotics, tissue-regenerating growth factors, painkillers, or other medications. To trigger medication delivery, a microcontroller in the bandage - controlled via a smartphone or other device - sends voltage through a chosen fiber, which then heats the fiber and its hydrogel coating, releasing the medication it contains.
A single bandage, say the researchers, could be used to accommodate different types of wounds, as well as offer the ability to precisely control both the medication dose and its delivery schedule. As a result, they say, it could substantially improve or accelerate the healing process.
"This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release,” says Ali Tamayol, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Nebraska. "You can release multiple drugs with different release profiles."
"That’s a big advantage in comparison with other systems. What we did here was come up with a strategy for building a bandage from the bottom up. This is a platform that can be applied to many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine."
Initially, the researchers see their smart bandage being used to treat chronic skin wounds stemming from diabetes. The medical costs associated with such wounds are "tremendous," they say.
Another area of use could be for those wounded in combat situations. The bandage's versatility and customizability, say the researchers, could help stimulate faster healing of wounds or prevent the onset of infection in remote environments.
"Soldiers on the battlefield may be suffering from a number of different injuries or infections," says Tamayol. “They might be dealing with a number of different pathogens. Imagine that you have a variable patch that has antidotes or drugs targeted toward specific hazards in the environment."
In experiments on mice, the researchers found that their smart bandage regrew tissue faster than a traditional dry bandage, and that an antibiotic-loaded version