A new electronic ‘band-aid’ claims to heal wounds 30 percent faster than traditional bandages by sending electrical signals directly to the injured site.
The innovation, developed by engineers from Northwestern University, consists of flexible, stretchable electrodes, an energy-harvesting coil to power the system and sensors that access the healing process.
When the wound is healed, the flower-shaped electrode dissolves into the body, bypassing the need to retrieve it.
In an animal study, even after 30 minutes, the new bandage healed diabetic ulcers 30 percent faster than in mice without the bandage.
A new smart ‘band-aid’ claims to heal wounds 30 percent faster than traditional bandages. It does so by sending electrical signals to the injury site
Injuries disrupt the body’s normal electrical signals, but the new device restores it through electrical stimulation.
Northwestern’s Guillermo Ameer, who co-led the study, 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.
One side of the bandage contains two electrodes.
The electrodes are made of the metal called molybdenum, which is widely used in electronic and semiconductor applications.
When this metal is thin enough, it can biodegrade, meaning it can disappear without interfering with the healing process.
‘We are the first to show that molybdenum can be used as a biodegradable electrode for wound healing,’ Ameer told SWS.
Injuries disrupt the body’s normal electrical signals, but the new device restores it through electrical stimulation. It consists of flexible, stretchable electrodes and an energy-harvesting coil to power the system
‘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.’
The first electrode, shaped like a flower, sits right on top of the wound bed.
The second is a ring-shaped electrode positioned on healthy tissue to surround the wound.
On the other side, there is an energy-harvesting coil to power the system and a near-field communication (NFC) system that wirelessly transports data in real-time.
Sensors have also been included so doctors can see how well the wound is healing without follow-up appointments.
Sensors are also fitted at the end, allowing doctors to monitor the healing process in real-time
They do this by measuring the resistance of the electrical current across the wound.
As the wound gets better, the electrical current measurement gets lower.
‘As a wound tries to heal, it produces a moist environment,’ said Ameer.
‘Then, as it heals, it should dry up. Moisture alters the current, so we are able to detect that by tracking electrical resistance in the wound.
‘Then, we can collect that information and transmit it wirelessly.
‘With wound care management, we ideally want the wound to close within a month. If it takes longer, that delay can raise concerns.’
The team now plans to test their bandage for diabetic ulcers in a larger animal model, with hopes to test it eventually on humans.
As the bandage leverages the body’s own healing power without releasing drugs or biologics, it faces fewer regulatory hurdles.
This means patients potentially could see it on the market much sooner.