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Paint a sensor on your skin

There are several versions of smart bandages that have been manufactured in the last few years. Their goal is to provide information on the healing progress to a doctor without the need to remove the bandage.

This news is about a new version of a smart bandage and to my knowledge it is the first one that can be “panted” on the screen. It does not involve electronics, as many of the others do, but just a mix of chemicals.

Healing is dependent on a good circulation of blood and in turns this can be assessed measuring the quantity of oxygen available in the skin.

Researchers at Harvard in cooperation with doctors at MGH in Boston have found a way to measure the concentration of oxygen by inserting a phosphorescent molecule, that changes its light emission depending on the concentration of oxygen in the tissue, in a liquid bandage that can be painted on the skin providing an airtight sealing layer plus a device to read the light emitted.

The doctors plan to use this bandage on patients who had surgery to check on possibile ischemic conditions, monitoring of skin grafts or flaps, and monitoring of the evolution of burnt situation where it is essential to have surgical debridement of dead tissue.

The researchers are now working on increasing the sensitivity of the glowing molecule and studying other molecules that can detect changes in the Ph of the skin (another important information of the health of the tissue), presence of bacteria and specific pathogens.

One might also expect improvement in the detection device, with a possibile use of a smartphone, I would expect, to make monitoring possibile also away from the hospital.

Interesting to see how various sciences are working together to deliver better, cheaper and easier to use bandages. Who would have imagined in the last century that a simple bandage could become a diagnostic tool for continuous monitoring of recovery?

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.