063016 Researchers at MIT have developed a hydrogel-based bandage embedded with micro-electronics and drug-delivering reservoirs for a wound-care solution that can monitor vitals (such as temperature), release drugs if needed, and light up if the medication is running low. The material is stretchable making it more compatible with the body’s structure than traditional dressings, and it may be useful for applications both inside and outside the body.
Recent advances in biomedical hydrogels have increased their popularity among engineers looking to develop next-generation medical devices, such as contact lenses, drug delivery devices, and tissue engineering scaffolds. The softness, flexibility, and porosity of hydrogel’s structure is similar to organic tissue, making hydrogels uniquely biocompatible.
Most electronics are hard and dry, not compatible with the human body. This bandage has electronics in it that are soft and stretchable. This challenges in developing this were the mechanical
strength and ability to cling to porous surfaces. The researchers developed a hydrogel capable of dissipating the energy required to stretch it and chemically anchored to form covalent bonds with various surfaces.
The bandage tracks the temperature of the wound and releases drugs from reservoirs that are diffused through the hydrogel over an extended period of time. In addition, embedded LED lights are programmed to light up when the reservoirs have emptied. This technology could be applied to implanted glucose monitors and neural probes at some point.
The focus of bandage improvement is a hot topic in todays day and age. Researchers around the world are looking for ways to incorporate smart electronics into wound dressings. A German team is working on a bandage that changes colors in response to pH levels in the skin, and a team from UC Berkeley is developing a skin sensor that can detect a bedsore before it begins to form. Miniaturized technology and a better understanding of human response will lead to a more intelligent or “smart” bandage.