Scientists have developed a 'smart' patch: it heals chronic wounds and inflammation

Researchers are developing a "smart" patch that can control healing and deliver antibiotics to the site of injury, as well as stimulate tissue growth using electrical signals. New York Post.

Photo: IStock

Led by medical engineering professor Dr. Wei Gao, scientists at the California Institute of Technology have developed a new technology that can help our bodies heal cuts, scrapes, and injuries more efficiently.

Their high-tech polymer patches theoretically heal wounds faster and cheaper, especially for people with certain chronic conditions known to slow down the healing process, like diabetes.

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It is estimated that 6,5 million Americans suffer long-term chronic wounds each year.

“There are many different types of chronic wounds, especially diabetic ulcers and burns, which persist for a long time and cause huge problems for the patient,” said Gao. “There is a demand for technologies that can facilitate recovery.”

“We have demonstrated this concept in small animal models, but in the future we would like to improve the stability of the device and also test it on larger chronic wounds, as the wound parameters and microenvironment can vary from site to site,” he said.

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The researchers tested the barely visible patch, which is "biocompatible, mechanically flexible, stretchable to the skin" on rodents in a study published March 24 in the journal Science Advances.

“The device consists of two parts — one reusable flexible circuit board and one disposable pad,” Dr. Gao said. “The disposable patch contains biosensors, electrodes and hydrogels with drugs.”

The scientists used the patches on the wounds of diabetic mice and rats before and after infection for research, demonstrating the incredible potential of a smart bandage. The patch could capture various biomarkers such as temperature, pH and other wound healing factors to help doctors track inflammation and growing infection.

During the study, rodents were given antibiotics and electrical stimulation. Mice treated with the special treatment showed better progress in healing than rodents without patches. If used on humans, the patch would not only be able to collect data and transfer it to a smart device or computer for viewing by the patient and doctor, but would also deliver a drug or “weak electric field.” Previous studies have shown that electrical stimulation, especially when using a patch, speeds up healing.

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In general, the researchers estimate that the cost of an electronic patch will be less than $100.

However, it is expected that the novelty will appear on the market not earlier than in five or ten years.

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