Science

Hydrogel Bandages Channel Medicine To The Right Places

By Paul Pajarillo , Dec 09, 2015 12:21 AM EST
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A group of engineers at the MIT has been successful at designing a smart bandage to measure vital signs and administer medication. The medical innovation uses a hydrogel enhanced with electronics that can stick perfectly to human skin.

A smart bandage made out of hydrogel has been successfully developed by a team of MIT engineers headed by Xuanhe Zhao. Dubbed as the smart bandage of the future, the hydrogel medical tech is made up of a soft and flexible polymer enhanced with sensors and electronics that can measure a person's vital signs and control medication. Since a hydrogel has natural characteristics to stretch, the smart bandage is perfect for a person's elbow and knees where regular Band-Aids and other plaster strips do not do the job.

Zhao and his team of MIT engineers have effectively embedded conductive wires to the hydrogel polymer along with temperature sensors, LED lights and semiconductor chips. The medical innovation permits the smart bandage to administer medication if and when a patient's body temperature rises or drops.

The hydrogel releases medicine directly to the patient's body through delivery pathways with tiny drug reservoirs if and when the smart bandage's sensors detect temperature change. The LED lights embedded in the hydrogel act as indicators when drugs at the reservoir are running out. The smart bandage is mostly made up of water in combination with flexible biopolymers that keep it soft and stretchy. The bandage forms a strong bond with surfaces like ceramic, glass, silicon, titanium and human skin while maintaining its pliability.

The hydrogel's flexibility allows it to last longer. The polymer protects the technological components of the bandage. With it, the wires and sensors embedded in the hydrogel can withstand repeated stretching.

Beyond skin level, the medical innovation can be used for internal applications. Neural probes and glucose sensor implants are often rejected by the human body. But internal monitoring using the hydrogel technology mimics human tissues that can monitor human internal organs. Embedded with time-released medicine, wires, smart implants and heat sensors, the smart bandage could be a significant tool in the medical field.

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