Wearable healthcare devices have been one of the most interesting innovations of recent years. Suffice to say however, whilst we have seen a huge number of new products enter the market, I didn’t expect to see a great deal of improvement given to the humble bandage.
Alas, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have done just that with a new ‘smart bandage’ that uses electrical currents to detect tissue damage before it is visible to the human eye.
“We set out to create a type of bandage that could detect bedsores as they are forming, before the damage reaches the surface of the skin,” the developers say.
So, for instance, it could provide a regular monitoring service for a wound. The researchers documented their work in a paper that was recently published in Nature Communications.
They believe that their device could provide a significant jolt to a problem that they believe affects around 2.5 million a year in the US alone.
“By the time you see signs of a bedsore on the surface of the skin, it’s usually too late,” the authors say.
“This bandage could provide an easy early-warning system that would allow intervention before the injury is permanent. If you can detect bedsores early on, the solution is easy. Just take the pressure off.”
The device has been created by printing dozens of electrodes onto a thin and flexible film that is then discharged with a tiny current to create a spatial map of the tissue using impedance spectroscopy.
The paper explains how the wall of a cell’s membrane begins to break down as the cell starts to die, therefore allowing electrical signals to leak through what was previously an impermeable wall.
The smart bandage collected data during the research once per day to track the progress of wounds. It was able to detect the increase in electrical resistance that corresponds with the increase in membrane permeability.
“One of the things that makes this work novel is that we took a comprehensive approach to understanding how the technique could be used to observe developing wounds in complex tissue,” the authors say.
The future is bright
The authors believe that the future is especially bright for smart bandage technology. As more is understood about the way the body responds to disease and injury, they believe that we are better equipped to build bandages that respond to specific circumstances in an intelligent manner.
For instance, they believe that in the not too distant future, bandages will be capable of reporting information regarding the wound to improve patient care significantly.
The bandage is now undergoing clinical trials to put it through its paces. You can find out more about it via the video below.