This content is adapted from an article on www.sciencealert.com, December 8, 2015.
United States researchers have developed a hydrogel bandage, a sticky and stretchy gel-like material, to dress wounds that could be the future of adhesive bandages—ones that could work both inside and outside the body.
Electronic features of hydrogel bandages
Mostly composed of water, the hydrogel bandage incorporates skin temperature sensors and drug reservoirs to release medication in response to temperature changes. Additionally, embedded LEDs would light up when medication is running low.
“Electronics are usually hard and dry, but the human body is soft and wet,” said Xuanhe Zhao, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “These two systems have drastically different properties.”
Zhao added: “If you want to put electronics in close contact with the human body for applications, such as healthcare monitoring and drug delivery, it is highly desirable to make the electronic devices soft and stretchable to fit the environment of the human body."
Advantages to the hydrogel bandage
The gel-like bandage’s stretchy and sticky attributes help to apply the bandage to any area of the body, including joints, elbows or knees.
According to the researchers, this bandage can deliver various drugs to different affected areas in the skin based on temperature. The medication flows through pathways in the gel created through tube insertions or drilled holes.
“It’s a very versatile matrix,” said Hyunwoo Yuk, a member from the team. “The unique capability here is, when a sensor senses something different, like an abnormal increase in temperature, the device can on demand select a specific drug from one of the reservoirs and release that drug to that specific location. This can diffuse in the hydrogel matrix for sustained release over time.”
The hydrogel could be used inside the body to house implanted electronics, such as glucose sensors or neural probes.
While the hydrogel helps improve exterior skin for burns or skin conditions, the bandage can also be used internally. Researchers explained how the hydrogel could theoretically be used inside the body to house implanted electronics, such as glucose sensors or neural probes.
“The brain is a bowl of [gelatin],” explained Zhao. “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.”
Read the complete article at www.sciencealert.com (source).