Imagine if a wound dressing could release fresh doses of medication over time, or even different types of medication at specific times. Well, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT have developed just such a thing … and it could be controlled by a smartphone.

The bandage is made of electrically conductive fibers that are coated in a hydrogel. That gel can in turn contain medication such as antibiotics, growth factors or painkillers – this means that various medications could be present within one bandage, loaded onto different fibers.

An attached microcontroller (about the size of a postage stamp) sends voltage through select fibers at select times. When it does so, those fibers heat up, also heating the gel that covers them. This causes the gel to release the medication into the wound site.

The microcontroller could be triggered wirelessly, by a smartphone or tablet. It's also conceivable, however, that thread-based sensors could be incorporated into the bandage. These would measure glucose, pH and other indicators of skin tissue health. As a result, the bandage could autonomously trigger itself to deliver medication as needed.

It is envisioned that the technology could be particularly useful on diabetic or other chronic wounds, or for soldiers being treated on the battlefield, where numerous pathogens are present.

"This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release," says U Nebraska's assistant professor Ali Tamayol. "You can release multiple drugs with different release profiles. That's a big advantage in comparison with other systems. What we did here was come up with a strategy for building a bandage from the bottom up."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln