MAR 28, 2016 6:52 AM PDT

Hydrogel ‘Band-Aids': The World's Smartest Bandages

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
MIT researchers develop nex-gen ‘smart' Band-Aids with hydrogelResearchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently added another invention to the emerging world of smart, wearable technologies. Their innovation, dubbed the “Band-Aid of the future,” comes in the form of a flexible, sticky, transparent hydrogel material that can incorporate temperature sensors, LED lights, and other technologies to completely revolutionize the future of wound dressing.
 
At the core of the next-generation Band-Aids is the material known as hydrogel. Synthesized from natural polymers like collagen or alginate, hydrogels have hydrophilic polymer chains that can absorb 70-95 percent of water. It is this high water content that renders the hydrogel so flexible and stretchy, which is why they’re used to make contact lenses and even condoms.
 
The stretchy property of hydrogels makes it ideal for sticking to skin as part of wound dressing. Whereas traditional gauze and Band-Aids don’t adhere well to body joints like knees and elbows, hydrogels easily wrap and stretch with the movements of these joints. Hydrogels maintain their structural integrity without compromising mobility for the patients. In addition, because of the high water content, hydrogel dressings provide moisture and cooling relief to the wounds, which accelerates its healing.
 

Led by Xuanhe Zhao, the MIT research team improved on the hydrogel composition to create one that’s mechanically tougher and can bond with other materials like gold, titanium, aluminum, silicon, glass, and ceramic – the common components of electronics. This means that sensors can be easily embedded within the hydrogel without getting shifted or lost.
 
To make this new hydrogel dressing ‘smart,’ MIT researchers added electronic sensors that can provide biometrics about the wound status and patient health. This included temperature and vitals sensors, LED lights, and microfluidic reservoirs for controlled drug release. The ultimate goal is to use changes in skin temperature as a guide for the release of medicines to the wound. And LED lights would alert doctors of when the medicine is running low or of other problems.
 
"If you want to put electronics in close contact with the human body for applications such as health care monitoring and drug delivery, it is highly desirable to make the electronic devices soft and stretchable to fit the environment of the human body. That's the motivation for stretchable hydrogel electronics. You need to think of long-term stability of the hydrogels and interfaces," said Zhao.
 
Indeed, the team demonstrated that hydrogel dressings remained in place, with all electronic sensors functioning as expected, even when the material was stretched across difficult areas like elbows and knees.
 
One immediate application for hydrogel dressings would be for the treatment of burns and other skin conditions. But Zhao and his team also intend to customize uses for smart hydrogels for inside the body, as part of implanted sensor devices and even as probes in the brain.

Additional source: MNT
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 09, 2019
Microbiology
JUL 09, 2019
Fibromyalgia Linked to Gut Microbes
Using clinical samples, scientists identified differences in the microbial population in the guts of people with fibromyalgia....
SEP 13, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 13, 2019
Apple Watch New Research App: A Boon to Women's Health
The Apple company, in 2018, enrolled more than 400,000 people in its Apple Heart Study conducted in partnership with Stanford University researchers....
NOV 02, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 02, 2019
Forecasting Chronic Pain
Chronic pain comes in many forms. Over half of those suffering from chronic pain, say they experience life-altering levels of pain on a daily basis. Many s...
DEC 22, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 22, 2019
Can Google Health's AI interpret X-rays as well as radiologists?
Patients presenting with severe coughs, chest pain or suspected infections are more than likely to be sent for a chest X-ray -- the most commonly taken med...
JAN 30, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 30, 2020
How To Choose The Right DNA Testing Kit For You
One of the most exciting scientific advancements in the past decade, at least in terms of its impact on pop culture, was the sudden accessibility of home D...
FEB 10, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 10, 2020
As Ebola Outbreak Continues, Researchers Create Faster Genetic Test
Since 2013, around 30,000 people have been infected during several outbreaks of Ebola in eight different countries....
Loading Comments...