Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists created a “smart wound dressing” using a highly stretchable hydrogel they unveiled in November. The water-based wound bandage has bone-binding cartilage strength and temperature monitoring features, enabling an automatic or by-demand drug application.
Researchers suggest the smart wound bandage would pave the way for the safe use of electronics inside the body. It could also lead to possible neural devices given the hydrogel’s similarities with brain tissue.
“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,”said Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The human body and electronics have opposing properties. Hydrogel electronics’ motivation is to fuse the two together. The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials on Dec. 8.
The smart wound dressing stretches as the body moves. The temperature sensors, drug pools and pathways enable the device to monitor and administer medication based on the readings. The study suggests it could be used in the treatment of burn patients or other skin conditions that require constant medication and monitoring.
The smart wound dressing is water-based and highly versatile. The researchers are confident of the device’s potential applications in various fields. It can be used in tissue engineering, underwater adhesives, hydrogel coatings and more importantly, in biomedical devices.
“The brain is a bowl of Jell-O. Currently, researchers are trying different soft materials to achieve long-term biocompatibility of neural devices,” added Zhao. The team proposed the use of the hydrogel to create potential neural devices.
Other institutions developed their own versions of the sticky hydrogel. MIT’s version is significantly stronger and stickier compared to other versions. The MIT team said their version of the hydrogel is stronger than Mother Nature’s natural adhesives such as the ones used by barnacles and mussels.
The MIT research was funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research and the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.