Tag Archives: wounds

New smart bandages could change the way we treat wounds

Monitoring how a wound is healing is trickier than it seems. Doctors usually do this by removing the bandage and checking the wound’s moisture, but this is quite problematic as it also disturbs the healing process. Now, in a new study, researchers have come up with a new “smart bandage” with sensors to check the status of the wound.

Image credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons

Wound healing is a physiological process through which damaged tissues repair themselves. If disrupted, the wound enters an inflammation state that can become chronic. The healing process also depends on several factors, the most relevant being moisture level — if it’s too high or too low it can alter the recovery of the wound — and removing a bandage can do just that. But with sensors, you may not need to take off the bandage to see how your wound is doing.

Miniaturized wearable sensors and readers have been developed to monitor sweat, tears, or saliva, but they haven’t been much investigated for wounds. Most common sensors couldn’t be used on wounds due to the wide range and challenges of wounds so a new approach was long overdue.  

“We developed a range of bandages with various layers and different absorption properties and characteristics,” Luca Possanzini, co-author from the University of Bologna, said. “The idea is that each type of wound could have its own appropriate dressing, from slowly exuding wounds to highly exuding wounds, such as blisters.”

Taking care of wounds

The new bandage, developed by Possanzini and researchers at the University of Bologna, comes with a set of sensors that read moisture levels and then transmits the data to an app on a smartphone. The information is then used by doctors to know whether the wound has properly healed without having to take the bandage off. 

The technology could be a game-changer in the way doctors monitor wounds — although it’s just a prototype for now. The researchers haven’t said when it would be commercially available or how much it would cost. But they explained it would be low-cost and disposable, as they have chosen inexpensive materials for designing it. 

The bandage comes with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, which is the same size as a grain of rice and is already used on contactless cards. The researchers applied a conductive polymer called PEDOT: PSS onto two different types of gauzes, gauze rayon, and gauze PET. Gauze is a thin transparent fabric that is wrapped around a wound. 

“PEDOT:PSS is an organic semiconducting polymer that can be easily deposited on several substrates as a standard ink,” Marta Tessarolo, co-author of the study, said. “We also incorporated a cheap, disposable and bandage-compatible RFID tag, similar to those used for clothing security tags, into the textile patch. The tan can wirelessly communicate moisture levels.”

The researchers tested the bandage by exposing it to an artificial version of exudate, the liquid that oozes from wounds, and also tested different materials and shapes. The bandage was in fact very sensitive and provided different readings between moist, dry, and saturated conditions. This suggests it would be a good ally for doctors in the near future.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers. 

Canadian researchers develop hand-held skin printer to treat burn patients

Researchers from the University of Toronto (UoT) Engineering and Sunnybrook Hospital, Canada, have developed a new 3D printer that can create sheets of skin to cover large burns and accelerate the healing process.

A simple schematic detailing the use (a) and general structure of the device (b).
Image credits Richard Y Cheng et al., (2020), Biofab.

Nobody likes to get burned — literally and figuratively. So a team of Canadian researchers has developed a handy new tool to take care of our literal burns. This hand-held 3D printer churns out stripes of biomaterial meant to cover burn wounds, promote healing, and reduce scarring. The bio-ink it uses is based on mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), a type of stem cell that differentiates into specialized roles depending on their environment.

Don’t feel the burn

“Previously, we proved that we could deposit cells onto a burn, but there wasn’t any proof that there were any wound-healing benefits — now we’ve demonstrated that,” says Axel Guenther, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the UoT and the study’s corresponding author.

The team unveiled their first prototype of the printer in 2018. It was quite the novel gadget at the time, the first of its kind to form tissues on-site, deposit them, and have them set in place in under two minutes.

Since then, the team has redesigned the printer 10 times, in an effort to make it more user-friendly and to tailor it to the requirements of an operating room. The current iteration of the design includes a single-use microfluidic printhead (to ensure the part is always sterile), and a soft wheel that’s used to flatten the material and tailor it to wounds of different shapes and sizes.

The MSCs in the ink are intended to promote regeneration and reduce scarring, the team explains. In broad lines, the authors explain, the method is similar to skin grafting, but it doesn’t require for healthy skin to be transplanted from other areas of the patient’s body — it’s printed on the spot. This is especially useful in the case of large burns, they add.

“With big burns, you don’t have sufficient healthy skin available, which could lead to patient deaths,” says Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and study co-author.

The team tested their printer in collaboration with the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Sunnybrook Hospital, successfully using the device to treat full-thickness wounds. Such burn wounds involve the destruction of both layers of the skin and often cover a significant portion of the body. While the results were encouraging, the team wants to further refine their printer and improve its ability to prevent scarring.

“Our main focus moving forward will be on the in-vivo side,” explains study leader Richard Cheng, a teaching assistant at the UoT.

“Once it’s used in an operating room, I think this printer will be a game changer in saving lives. With a device like this, it could change the entirety of how we practice burn and trauma care,” adds Jeschke.

The paper “Handheld instrument for wound-conformal delivery of skin precursor sheets improves healing in full-thickness burns” has been published in the journal Biofabrication.