Researchers create smart plaster that tracks status of infections in wounds

Experts at the United States-based University of Rhode Island have created a bandage [plaster] capable of detecting infections.

Essentially, the device will solely be used for diagnostic purposes, while the hope is that it will diagnose an infection at an early stage, and thus lead to fewer antibiotics and preventing drastic measures, such as limb amputation.

The researchers say they envision the plaster being particularly useful in those with diabetes, where the management of chronic wounds is routine.

The plaster, which is equipped with embedded nanosensors in bandage fibers, is expected to be a continuous and noninvasive means of detecting and monitoring an infection happening inside a wound.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, states that the new ‘smart bandage’ detects, and might even prevent infections in wounds.

It notes that instead of a haphazard attempt to suspend the development of infections in wounds, bandages [plasters] embedded with carbon nanotubes can keep incoming health care experts informed on the status of their patient-to-be, which in turn will save crucial time in treatment as conventional medical care begins.

“Single-walled carbon nanotubes within the bandage will be able to identify an infection in the wound by detecting concentrations of hydrogen peroxide,” said one of the three study authors, Assistant Professor Daniel Roxbury of the University of Rhode Island.

Until this development, the challenge in using nanotubes in applications like this lies in immobilising them in a biocompatible way so they remain sensitive to their surrounding environment, Roxbury added.

“The microfibers that encapsulate the carbon nanotubes accomplish both of these tasks,” Roxbury said, assuring, “The nanotubes do not leach from the material, yet they stay sensitive to hydrogen peroxide within the wounds.”

The smart plaster comes with a miniaturised wearable device that will monitor it and wirelessly (via optical link) detect signals from the carbon nanotubes embedded in the bandage.

“This signal can then transmit to a smartphone-like device capable of sending automatic alerts to patients or health care providers,” the study states.

Roxbury says the device will solely be used for diagnostic purposes, noting, however, that the hope is that it will diagnose an infection at an early stage, necessitating fewer antibiotics and preventing drastic measures, such as limb amputation.

“We envision this being particularly useful in those with diabetes, where the management of chronic wounds is routine,” he said.

The smart plasters will be put to tests in the following months, the researchers say.

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