Some bandages are embedded with medicine to treat wounds, but researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have something much more sophisticated in mind for the future of chronic wound care.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), engineer Ali Khademhosseini and a multidisciplinary team are bringing together advances in sensors, biomaterials, tissue engineering, microsystems technology and microelectronics to create “smart bandages” for wounds that require ongoing care, such as burns, diabetic ulcers and bed sores.
The new devices, known collectively as flexible bioelectronics, will do much more than deliver medicine. They will be able to monitor all the vital signs of the healing process, such as oxygen levels and temperature, and make adjustments when needed, as well as communicate the information to health professionals who are off-site. To fulfill the critical need for flexibility, the team is testing new materials, such as a hydrogel that would cover a wound with just the right amount of stretch to be comfortable.
The research in this episode is supported by NSF award #1240443, EFRI-BioFLEX: Tissue Engineered Flexible Sensors, Actuators and Electronics for Chronic Wound Management. EFRI is the acronym for Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation and BioFLEX is short for flexible bioelectronics.