This “smart Band-Aid” knows when to apply medicine to wounds

One of the more common ways to treat wounds on the skin is to use dressings (gauze, cotton balls, band-aids, etc. are all dressings), and antibiotics are usually used to prevent wound infection and allow it to heal as soon as possible.

However, some wounds do not actually need antibiotics, and the waste of antibiotics not only leads to the overtreatment of wounds, but also leads to the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria, which has become a non-negligible problem in global health care. Under opaque dressings, it is also impossible to know how well the wound is healing.

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

In order to solve these problems, an interdisciplinary team led by Ren Qun and Pan Fei, two Empa laboratories Biointerfaces and Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles in St. Gallen, Switzerland, developed a "smart dressing" and published the research results in the journal In ACS Applied Bio Materials.

The "smart" aspect of this dressing is that it automatically releases medication for treatment when the wound needs it.

▲ Picture from: Empa

The researchers designed and fabricated a nanofibrous membrane, and based on it, developed a composite material containing various components including PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) and Eudragit.

During the experiment, the research team encapsulated octenidine, a disinfectant that acts rapidly against bacteria, fungi and some viruses. It can be used in the healthcare sector to disinfect skin, mucous membranes and wounds in nanofibers. So, how can you make it work at the right time?

▲ Picture from: Empa

The realization of "smart" medication is actually to allow the dressing to respond to the stimuli of the environment, and this environment is the wound.

If the wound is not abnormal, it will be in the normal skin temperature range. But when the wound is infected and inflamed, the temperature will rise, and the "smart dressing" will change its shape according to the change in temperature.

▲ Picture from: ACS Applied Bio Materials

The "temperature switch" that determines the change is 37 ºC. At normal skin temperatures, dressings made from this composite material are in a solid state. When the wound is inflamed and the temperature rises to around 37 ºC, the dressing softens and the octenidine "hidden" inside is released.

After the wound has been treated, the skin temperature will drop, at which point the dressing will change from a softer state back to a firmer solid. After experiments, the process of releasing the drug from the "smart dressing" can be repeated up to five times.

▲ Picture from: ACS Applied Bio Materials

There is no doubt that this "smart dressing" has many advantages compared to the current common dressings. It can decide whether to release drugs according to the condition of the wound, which means that antibiotics will be "used on the edge", thereby avoiding been overused. And it's reusable and doesn't require frequent wound treatment.

However, Empa has only conducted some preliminary tests of dressings made from this composite material, and while it has proved its feasibility, there is still much to be improved. For example, the "fine-tuning" that researchers are currently trying to achieve is hoped that the temperature difference of the "smart dressing" can be controlled within a small range, instead of reaching four to five degrees.

▲ Picture from: Empa

In fact, a few years ago, a research group at Tufts University in Massachusetts also developed a "smart bandage", only 3 mm thick, composed of transparent medical tape, heat-activated antibiotic gel and flexible electronic components.

The "smart bandage" uses sensors that measure the pH or temperature of the wound to determine if an infection has occurred. If there is an infection, it activates a heating element built into the bandage to raise the temperature of the gel and release more antibiotics into the wound. Currently This research is still in the experimental process.

▲ Picture from: Tufts University

It is necessary to treat and prevent the abuse of antibiotics, and the treatment of wounds is not an easy task. It is hoped that these "smart dressings" will be widely used as soon as possible, and even if they are unfortunately injured, the wound can be "smart" treated.

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