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New 'Smart Bandage' Detects, Could Prevent Harmful Infections in Real-Time

Bandages embedded with carbon nanotubes could track the status of infections in wounds.

New 'Smart Bandage' Detects, Could Prevent Harmful Infections in Real-Time
Tweezers holding the smart bandage. Negar Rahmani / University of Rhode Island

Everyone knows how great bandages are at covering wounds, but few have imagined the potential of a bandage capable of detecting infections.

And with embedded nanosensors in bandage fibers, researchers have created a continuous and noninvasive means of detecting and monitoring an infection happening inside a wound, according to a recent study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

RELATED: NANOTECHNOLOGY: LIFE-CHANGING INNOVATION OR JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

New 'smart bandage' detects, might prevent infections in wounds

"Single-walled carbon nanotubes within the bandage will be able to identify an infection in the wound by detecting concentrations of hydrogen peroxide," said Assistant Professor Daniel Roxbury of the University of Rhode Island (URI), in a blog post.

Until this development, the challenge in using nanotubes in applications like this lies in immobilizing them in a biocompatible way so they remain sensitive to their surrounding environment, said Roxbury.

"The microfibers that encapsulate the carbon nanotubes accomplish both of these tasks," Roxbury said in the blog post. "The nanotubes do not leach from the material, yet they stay sensitive to hydrogen peroxide within the wounds."

New 'smart' bandage could have great use for diabetes

A miniaturized wearable device will monitor the "smart bandage," and wirelessly (via optical link) detect signals from the carbon nanotubes embedded in the bandage. This signal can then transmit to a smartphone-like device capable of sending automatic alerts to patients or health care providers.

"This device will solely be used for diagnostic purposes," said Roxbury in the blog post. "However, the hope is that the device will diagnose an infection at an early stage, necessitating fewer antibiotics and preventing drastic measures, such as limb amputation. We envision this being particularly useful in those with diabetes, where the management of chronic wounds is routine."

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Negar Rahmani et al.
Daniel Roxbury (left) and Mohammad Moein Safaee (right) holding microfibrous materials with carbon nanotube sensors embedded within. Source: Negar Rahmani / University of Rhode Island

Smart bandages 'microfabricated' with nanosensors inside textile fibers

In addition to Roxbury, former URI graduate student Mohammad Moein Safaee and current doctoral student Mitchell Gravely also authored the study behind this novel technological application of nanomaterials.

"Professor Roxbury was very supportive of the idea of designing wearable technologies based on carbon nanotubes and I was excited to take the lead on the project," Safaee said in the blog post.

Safaee employed numerous advanced technologies to create the new bandage from within Roxbury's NanoBio Engineering Laboratory in the Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering.

"We designed and optimized a microfabrication process to precisely place nanosensors inside the individual fibers of a textile," said Safaee. "We utilized cutting-edge microscopes to study the structure of the materials that we produced. I also utilized a home-built, near-infrared spectrometer to optimize the optical features of the textiles."

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Daniel Roxbury Optical Fibrous
Nanosensors inserted into specific fibers of a textile. Source: Daniel Roxbury / University of Rhode Island

Carbon nanotube 'smart' bandages could help prevent infection

The following stage of this project will verify the proper function of the bandages in a petri dish — mixed with live cultured cells typically found in wounds.

"These cells we'll be using are known as fibroblasts and macrophages (white blood cells) that produce hydrogen peroxide in the presence of pathogenic bacteria," Roxbury said in the blog post. "If all goes well, we'll move to 'in vivo' testing in mice. At that point, we would find a collaborator who specializes in these animal wound models."

As the smart bandages are put through tests in the following months, it's interesting to notice how much potential nanomaterials have in the health care fields to fill in the gaps of care. Instead of a haphazard attempt to suspend the development of infections in wounds, bandages embedded with carbon nanotubes can keep incoming health care experts informed on the status of their patient-to-be, which in turn will save crucial time in treatment as conventional medical care begins.

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