When tech and medicine meet, everyone benefits. The tech doesn’t have to be a new MRI or laser printed organs, either — even the lowly bandage can benefit from an upgrade. Different researchers worldwide are using their particular expertise to develop a host of newer, smarter, more effective bandages; many of which are steadily making their way out of the lab and into the real world. Here’s a quick overview of all the awesome bandage tech that you can expect to see in the not-so-distant future:
A Bandage of a Different Color
In 2010, a German team from the Fraunhofer Research Institutions for Microsystems and Solid State Technology EMFT created a bandage that looks like any other self-adhesive band-aid, but changes color to indicate infection by reacting to the pH of the skin beneath. Healthy healing wounds have a pH of about five or six. If this gets too alkaline, that can mean there’s an infection brewing underneath. The bandage will turn purple between 6.5 and 8.5 pH.
Another team from South Korea, Germany, and the US represented by Dr. Conor Evans from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine took a different tack: Liquid bandages funded in part by the Department of Defense. These can also clearly indicate wound healing, but not by detecting pH. The liquid bandage is designed to map oxygen concentrations in skin, including burns. In case you didn’t know, blood supply rich with oxygen and glucose is integral to wound healing. A deficit can result in poor recovery and chronic sores.
Current wound assessment is limited to the sniff test, visual inspection, or electrochemical analysis, which requires sticking electrodes (like needles) into the wound. The latter sounds like a miserable process for patients. A less invasive measurement option is available if you have the equipment to trace radioactive markers, but positron emission tomographs are pricey and not widely available.