A smart bandage with wound covering component (right), containing sensors and a drug carrier, and a microprocessor (left) that interprets sensor input and triggers drug delivery. (Credit: Tufts University)

A prototype bandage has been designed to actively monitor the condition of chronic wounds and deliver appropriate drug treatments to improve the chances of healing. The research is aimed at transforming bandaging from a traditionally passive treatment into a more active paradigm to address a persistent and difficult medical challenge.

A microprocessor reads the data from the sensors and can release drug on demand from its carriers by heating the gel. The entire construct is attached to a transparent medical tape to form a flexible bandage less than 3 mm thick. Components were selected to keep the bandage low cost and disposable, except for the microprocessor, which can be re-used.

While the smart bandages in this study combine pH and temperature sensors, the engineers have also developed flexible sensors for oxygenation — another marker of healing — that can be integrated into the bandage. Inflammation could also be tracked not just by heat, but by specific biomarkers as well.