Smart Bandage Pulls Skin Together to Speed Healing
Wounds on the skin are usually treated with bandages that protect the area and keep it moist, but which don’t actively help to promote healing. Researchers at Harvard and McGill universities have now created a mechanotherapy bandage that actually works to close the wound, keeps it protected from microbes, and speeds up healing much faster that existing products. The researchers have dubbed their approach as “active adhesive dressings” (AADs), and they believe that soon these may be coming to a pharmacy near you.
The new bandages are possible thanks to heat-responsive hydrogels that are strong and, when heated, contract and pull anything they’re attached to. Since they’re also adhesive by nature, they stick extremely well to the skin. The amount of force the material applies to the skin can be programmed during the manufacture of the material by tinkering with the concentrations of its components, allowing it to be used in a variety of clinical applications beyond simple cuts and scrapes.
The researchers used PNIPAm, a heat-responsive polymer that starts to contract at around 90° Fahrenheit (32° C). It is water repellent and because silver nanoparticles are mixed into it during production, it also keeps the microbes away.
In a study on pig skin, the material bonded to the skin at least ten times stronger than Band-Aids and kept bacteria from growing nearby. When tested on mouse skin, the new bandages were able to reduce the wound area by 45%, while skin that was untreated didn’t change much on its own. The bandage material was even compared with other therapies, including microgels, chitosan, gelatin, and other hydrogels, and its performance was superior to all of those. No inflammation or immune response was detected, which apparently makes the bandages safe for humans.
Certainly more studies will be required before you can buy these at the pharmacy, but it’s certainly about time for a better solution to skin wounds.