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Just like how a FitBit can tell you how many steps you’ve walked, bandages will soon be able monitor the wound healing process and automatically deliver medicine to the affected area.

A group of Massachusetts and Indiana-based researchers created a “smart and automated flexible wound dressing” aimed at controlling the occurrence of chronic wounds. The 3-mm thick automated patch is made from an alginate hydrogen sheet containing thermos-responsive drug carriers, pH and temperature sensors, and a system that monitors the wound and systematizes drug release.

The bandage can detect the level of infection by assessing the pH. According to group leader Sameer R. Sonkusale, PhD, the director of the Nano Lab at Tufts University, most healing wounds have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, whereas the pH of non-healing wounds is higher than 6.5.

In their study funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health which was published recently in Small, the researchers describe putting the patch in a petri dish that had a colony of Staphyloccus aureaus and electrical voltages that were used to generate and release Cefazolin, an antibiotic. They were able to control the frequency of the drug release by modifying the temperature.

Pending regulatory approval, the researchers plan on testing the bandage of animal models. Excluding the drug delivery feature, the pH monitoring component could enable physicians to keep tabs on the wound without removing and reapplying bandages.

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