Researchers in the US have developed a first-of-its-kind small, flexible, stretchable bandage that accelerates healing by delivering electrotherapy directly to the wound site.
In an animal study, the new bandage healed diabetic ulcers 30 per cent faster than in mice without the bandage.
The bandage also actively monitors the healing process and then harmlessly dissolves into the body once it is no longer needed.
The new technology could provide a powerful tool for patients with diabetes, whose ulcers can lead to various complications, including amputated limbs or even death.
The research marks the first bioresorbable bandage capable of delivering electrotherapy and the first example of a smart regenerative system.
Study co-lead Guillermo A. Ameer, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said:
“Our new bandage is cost-effective, easy to apply, adaptable, comfortable and efficient at closing wounds [in diabetes patients] to prevent infections and further complications.”
Northwestern’s John A. Rogers, who co-led the study, added:
“Although it’s an electronic device, the active components that interface with the wound bed are entirely resorbable.
“As such, the materials disappear naturally after the healing process is complete, thereby avoiding any damage to the tissue that could otherwise be caused by physical extraction.”
As high glucose levels in Diabetes patients thicken capillary walls, blood circulation slows, making it more difficult for these wounds to heal. This means that a small injury to evolve into a dangerous wound.
The researchers wanted to find out whether electrical stimulation therapy could help close these stubborn wounds.
Ameer said explained that injuries can disrupt the body’s normal electrical signals.
By applying electrical stimulation, it restores the body’s normal signals and attracts new cells to migrate to the wound bed.
The researcher said:
“Our body relies on electrical signals to function.
“We tried to restore or promote a more normal electrical environment across the wound.
“We observed that cells rapidly migrated into the wound and regenerated skin tissue in the area. The new skin tissue included new blood vessels, and inflammation was subdued.”
The two researchers and their teams created a small, flexible bandage that softly wraps around the injury site.
One side of the smart regenerative system contains two electrodes: A tiny flower-shaped electrode that sits right on top of the wound bed and a ring-shaped electrode that sits on healthy tissue, surrounding the entire wound.
The other side of the device contains an energy-harvesting coil that powers the system and a near-field communication (NFC) system to wirelessly transport data in real time.
The team also added sensors that can assess how well the wound is healing.
Measuring the resistance of the electrical current across the wound enables physicians to monitor progress.
The device can also be operated remotely without wires so the physician can decide when to apply the electrical stimulation and can monitor the wound’s healing progress.
Once the wound is healed, the flower-shaped electrode simply dissolves into the body, bypassing the need to retrieve it.
The researchers made the electrodes from a metal called molybdenum, which is widely used in electronic and semiconductor applications.
They discovered that when molybdenum is thin enough, it can biodegrade and it does not interfere with the healing process.
“We are the first to show that molybdenum can be used as a biodegradable electrode for wound healing,.
“After about six months, most of it was gone. And we found there’s very little accumulation in the organs. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“But the amount of metal we use to make these electrodes is so minimal, we don’t expect it to cause any major issues.”
Image: Northwestern University