New smart bandage glows to show healing through surface
Ripping off a Band-Aid is never fun, but thanks to a new development from a group of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, tearing off a bandage over and over again just to see how a wound is healing may soon be a thing of the past.
A team led by Conor L. Evans from the Wellman Center of Photomedicine of Massachussetts General has recently developed what it calls a smart bandage: a spray-on, waterproof covering with the addition of special phosphors (synthetic fluorescent substances) that interact with oxygen to show exactly how the injury underneath is, or is not, healing.
The dressing has all of the properties of a traditional bandage, but with the added bonus of allowing doctors to directly observe the healing process without having to expose the wound to the open air.
“It’s fascinating science,” says Dr. Richard Fantus of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “When we talk about acute wounds, we always struggle with the fact that whenever we have to remove any type of dressing there is some level of pain on the part of the patient. Transparent dressings like this one are a definite improvement in that respect.”
According to a study published by Evans in the journal Biomedical Optics Express, the bandage starts with the application of a film laced with phosphors that protects the injury. On top of that, another layer is applied that slows the exchange of oxygen between the first layer and the air, which ultimately makes the bandage responsive to oxygen within tissue, not outside. Depending on the level of oxygenation, the phosphors will glow with more or less intensity. By viewing the dressing through a special camera, the doctors can observe the changes in this glow to monitor healing taking place under the bandage.
The smart bandage is useful for wounds where oxygen monitoring is key, like plastic surgery, burns, skin grafts or any type of injury that restricts blood supply.
However, Evans’ designs for the technology don’t just end at oxygen detection – in the same way that phosphors were integrated into the film, Evans hopes to one day include the ability to deliver drugs from the covering straight to the wound.
“As far as transparent bandages go, this one is especially impressive,” Dr. Fantus says. “However, we need to keep in mind that everything comes at a cost, like how difficult the dressing will be to apply or how expensive this therapy will be on a large scale. Still, the ability to observe the healing process without removing the dressing has real value. It will be very interesting to see where this technology goes.”
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