New "Smart" Bandages Could Help Diabetes Patients, Soldiers

What the "smart" bandage looks like when applied. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Listen to this story: 

March 7, 2018 - 6:45am

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are designing a smart bandage that could eventually heal chronic wounds caused by diabetes and help fight against injuries that occur on the battlefield. NET News' Brandon McDermott talked about the effort with Ali Tamayol a lead researcher for the project at UNL.

Brandon McDermott, NET News: This smart bandage has little electrical fibers inside of it that can be loaded with antibiotics and triggered with a smart phone application -- can you kind of explain this process for us?

A close look at the prototype of the "smart" bandage. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Dr. Ali Tamayol, UNL researcher: Imagine that we have fibers or threads which are coated electrically conductive material acting as a heater and then it's also coated by a layer of material which contains the antibiotics or any drug that we want to load on the bandage. Then once we apply the voltage to the heater, it's going to heat up and then it's going to release the drug into the environment surrounding that.

McDermott: So does this change the game going forward to say 20 years from now, will what we think of Band-Aids and bandages be different?

Tamayol: For sure things are going to change, we have substantial advancements in different areas of engineering and medicine. As a result the goal is to try to benefit from all these advancements. At the end of the day we’re going to have bandages that’s going to help facilitate the life of the patients – so it’s going to improve the quality of their lives – and at the same time it's going to you know basically expedite the healings of the wounds, down the road.

McDermott: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they've estimated that diabetes cases of chronic skin wounds is going to either double or triple the next 30 years. How can the bandage you're researching help people with diabetes?

A close look at the electrical heating system of the "smart" bandage. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Tamayol: The bandage that we are designing right now it’s trying to help the symptoms of the diabetes -- which one of the more severe ones we are focused on is the formation of diabetic ulcers and chronic wounds. So it's good to know that any skin cut in diabetic patients potentially can turn into a non-healing or really hard to heal chronic wound.

Technically, what we're trying to do we're trying to basically come up with the design, innovation that has sensing components and also drug-eluting components in a way that we can sense the environment and then based on the sensing parameters -- either the bandage or medical professionals can decide what drug to be released at what time in a way that’s going to overcome the challenges that are interrupting the proper healing of these sort of wounds.

McDermott: So this smart bandage can help heal chronic wounds – is going to help heal those wounds faster?

Tamayol: Well that's actually one of the goals, because right now a key challenge is that these chronic ones are not healing properly and as a result they're going to get infected. Then it’s going to create some other side effects and also some other of your life-threatening conditions. So, the goal is to try to heal them as soon as possible – as fast as possible – in a way that can eliminate those life-threatening conditions.

McDermott: Your research also has application on the battlefield during wartime. How do you see your research helping there?

What the "smart" bandage looks like on a human arm. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Tamayol: This is a very robust platform. It basically can be used for any topical drug delivery. Now imagine that you have a soldier that is fighting on the battlefield and potentially he or she can be exposed to a number of different bio-hazards, a number of different toxins on the battlefield.

So, imagine that you have all the antidotes pre-loaded on a bandage. If there is anything detected on the battlefield -- the antidote can be automatically released in a way that is going to save the soldier on the battlefield.

McDermott: Several of the components for this bandage that you're designing have already been approved by the FDA -- how can this help get the product onto the market and in practice sooner?

Tamayol: Well that's actually not our goal, but also the goal of many other researchers -- in any way that we’re trying to use materials that we already know that are safe and the FDA also agrees that they're safe. So, then we are one stage closer to doing clinical trials because the materials are already safe for patients.

So, then it's just a matter of showing that the process or the platform that we are engineering – based on these safe materials – is also safe and it's not applying any threats for the patients that are going to be treated by this. So, that's going to take us a step closer to having this being used in pre-clinical and also clinical trials.



blog comments powered by Disqus