Smart Bandages Edge Closer To Market

Back in 2015 I looked at an innovative new bandage from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, which used 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 said.

So, for instance, it could provide a regular monitoring service for a wound.  The researchers documented their work in a paper that was published in Nature Communications.

This was then followed a year later by the work of a UK team, who have come up with a similar product.  The bandage is capable of turning a different color when it detects the onset of infection, thus providing medics with an early warning of problems afoot.

The product, which was documented in paper published at the time, turns bright green when the gel like material within the dressing detects bacteria.

Slow progress

These are undoubtedly fascinating projects, but there appears little sign that they are coming to market any time soon.  At least that's the impression given by a Welsh team from Swansea University, who recently told the BBC that such bandages could be on trial within 12 months.

The bandages developed by the Welsh team utilize 5G technology to monitor what's happening in the wound, whilst also tracking the activity levels of the wearer.

"That intelligent dressing uses nano-technology to sense the state of that wound at any one specific time.  It would connect that wound to a 5G infrastructure and that infrastructure through your telephone will also know things about you - where you are, how active you are at any one time," the team tell the BBC.

Smart materials

The project is part of a growing number that are attempting to make materials smarter, especially in healthcare.  For instance, researchers have also developed a smart patch that aims to help diabetes sufferers manage their insulin levels.  The patch is designed to monitor blood glucose levels and gradually release insulin if levels are too high.

The device was put through its paces in a recent study on mice.  The patch aims to take away the burden of managing insulin levels for people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes by making the process both simple and injection free.

The patch is covered in microneedles loaded with tiny, insulin-carrying pouches that are capable of painlessly injecting the wearer.  Each pouch is designed to break apart swiftly and then release the insulin as glucose levels rise.

Or you've got the team from Cardiff University, who are developing a smart patch to help detect the early onset of osteoarthritis in our knees.

The patch utilizes the same technology used to detect damage in the wings of an aircraft.  The technology listens out for subsonic cracking sounds in joints, which are an early indicator of later problems.

The patch promises to provide a cheaper, quicker way of diagnosis than existing methods.

“The idea has got huge potential to change the way we diagnose osteoarthritis (OA),” the team say.  “If we’re able to link the sound signature of a healthy knee and a knee with disease, we will be able to lower the costs on society a lot.”

Such devices are clearly a little way from the market, but the potential is clear for all to say, and hopefully we're seeing signs that they are edging closer and closer.

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