By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
A smart bandage that makes a serious wound heal 25 percent faster has been developed by scientists.
The battery-free flexible device monitors it - and delivers treatment - all at the same time.
It could help diabetics with painful leg or foot ulcers that last months - and other patients with chronic injuries.
They blight the lives of 2.2 million Britons a year. Treatment is slow and difficult - costing the NHS more than £8 billion in nursing care annually.
The state of the art dressing repairs tissue by combining electrical stimulation and biosensors.
It boosts skin closure by fueling blood flow to the site - dramatically reducing scar formation.
Circuitry uses temperature detectors to identify problems - such as an infection. They inform a central processing unit to apply more electrical stimulation.
A miniature prototype was tested on mice. The US team tracked the data in real time on a smart phone - all without the need for wires.
Lead author Professor Yuanwen Jiang, of Stanford University said: "In sealing the wound, the smart bandage protects as it heals.
"But it is not a passive tool. It is an active healing device that could transform the standard of care in the treatment of chronic wounds."
The electronic layer is just 100 microns thick - about the thickness of a human hair. It includes a microcontroller, radio antenna, memory, electrical stimulator, biosensors and other components.
Underneath lies a cleverly engineered a rubbery, skin-like hydrogel that delivers healing electrical stimulation and collects the biosensor data.
It contains a polymer designed to adhere securely to a wound when needed yet pull away harmlessly when warmed to 40°C (86°F) - a few degrees above body temperature.
Jiang said: "‘Across pre-clinical wound models in mice, the treatment group healed 25 percent more rapidly and with 50 percent enhancement in skin remodeling.
"This was compared with controls. Further, we observed activation of pro-regenerative
genes in immune cell populations, which may enhance recovery."
Infections, diseases and suppressed immune systems slow healing - often leading to anxiety and depression. It can be life threatening.
Electrical stimulation is known to spread skin cells to a wound, limit bacterial infections and mend damaged tissue repair.
The smart bandage's capabilities harness its healing powers in the most efficient and accurate way to date.
Technically, it senses temperature which falls as inflammation subsides and wounds heal.
Co-author Proffesor Artem Trotsyuk, now at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said: "With stimulation and sensing in one device, the smart bandage speeds healing, but it also keeps track as the wound is improving.
"We think it represents a new modality that will enable new biological discovery and the exploration of previously difficult-to-test hypotheses on the human healing process."
Further analysis showed the bandage works by triggering an anto-inflammatory gene called Selenop. It has been found to help with pathogen clearance and wound repair.
It also switches on another protein called Apoe which has been shown to increase muscle and soft tissue growth.
Likewise, electrical stimulation increased the amount of the immune system's white blood cell populations, namely monocytes and macrophages.
The researchers hope to scale up the "promising, proof of concept design" for mass production.
They also want to add sensors that measure metabolites
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