The Future of Wound Healing Rests on an Electronic, Stretchy Band-Aid
Dressing a wound will never be the same, not after what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invented. The MIT researchers touted this invention as “the Band-Aid of the future,” a bandage made of stretchy hydrogel embedded with electronics like LED lights, temperature sensors and drug delivery channels that act depending on the person’s skin temperature to aid wound healing.
Xuanhe Zhao and Robert Noyce lead the study and design of this futuristic Band-Aid.
“Electronics are usually hard and dry, but the human body is soft and wet. These two systems have drastically different properties,” Zhao explained, which is why they had to look for a material that can give them what they need.
Based on research and study, Zhao and Noyce went with using hydrogel, a rubbery, sticky and stretchy material made of water. Hydrogel can easily bond with silicone, glass, aluminum, titanium, gold and ceramic. This is why hydrogel is perfect to use with electronics. Its form allows it to attach to hard-to-stick areas like elbows and knees, and still, keep the electronics intact.
But setting aside the science and technology, the fact remains that Band-Aids are used to dress wounds or cover up wounds. As of today, that has been their main purpose. MIT takes it several levels higher by incorporating its main purpose of covering wounds, yet adding the healing concept within it as well.
Everyone wants their wounds to heal up quickly; however, the current bandages on sale cannot do that. If MIT’s futuristic wound dressing works, there will be no more need to re-apply medicine over and over. As mentioned, the hydrogel bandage comes with drug delivery channels. Once the temperature sensors detect a change in body temperature, this signals the drug delivery channels to start delivering the medicine.
As of writing, the MIT team hopes that hydrogel wound dressing can be used to treat burns. But looking to the future, the team aims to use hydrogel as a tool to deliver electronics inside the body such as neural probes and glucose sensors.
“Currently, researchers are trying different soft materials to achieve long-term biocompatibility of neural devices. With collaborators, we are proposing to use robust hydrogel as an ideal material for neural devices, because the hydrogel can be designed to possess similar mechanical and physiological properties as the brain,” Zhao shared of the team’s long-term goal.