Researchers at at-work on a new device to treat wounds in real-time.

As the name might imply, complex wounds are much more involved than standard varieties that patients might encounter. Due to a number of factors – from the intensity of the wound to a patient’s specific medical background and overall health – these wounds require a much greater level of care and attention. It’s for that very reason that a number of different technologies have been created over the years, with machines like the negative pressure device built to improve the quality of care for millions of patients everywhere. That groundbreaking research continues today with yet another advancement. Scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington have created a device that can monitor and treat wounds in real time

Getting SMART

The aforementioned device, an updated sensor tool, has the rather appropriate name of SMART, or Sensing, Monitoring And Release of Therapeutics. The UTA team features professors from several different academic disciplines, and is led by electrical engineering professor Weidong Zhou. The team is operating on a $100,000 loan from the Texas Medical Research Collaborative, a research partnership that features experts from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas Instruments and Texas Health Research & Education Institute, among other institutions.

According to the TMRC, the SMART Bandage will help improve the wound care process by eschewing larger, high-cost optical sensing systems and instead letting physicians rely on smaller, more cost effective technology. Specifically, SMART will make use of a number of state-of-the-art technologies, including smart shape memory polymers, nanophotonic membrane devices and robust fluorescent. Together, these devices can sense chemical changes in complex wounds, which can alert medical experts to risks of infections or if the healing process has slowed. In the end, TMRC said it believes that SMART will give doctors and caregivers a “continuous, quantitative read-out of treatment response and wound healing.” No word yet on a launch date for a prototype.

“The SMART Bandage will be a flexible, portable tool that a doctor can place over a patient’s wound,” Zhou said. “Besides giving the patient medicine in real time, the tool also will be non-invasive to the patient. It can eliminate bulky devices that are used now. We hope the SMART Bandage will ease patients’ pain and help their healing.”

Building upward

The work of Zhou and his team actually builds on research from a team that sought to help wounded soldiers. In 2014, Professor Conor L. Evans, from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine of Massachusetts General Hospital, released a similar “smart” bandage that was painted onto patients’ bodies and could help indicate a number of biological processes, including cell proliferation, oxygenation concentration and overall immune responses.

According to Evans and his team – who released his findings in the journal Biomedical Optics Express – oxygen is a major component of the wound healing process, and being able to map out its effectiveness can actually help doctors and surgeons more successfully restore both limbs and physical function. Specifically, the dressing is identified using a camera-based imaging device, which traces the levels of oxygen consumption within the underlying tissue. The research team went on to conclude that poor oxygenation is the biggest contributing factor to chronic ischemic wounds. By creating a device that better treats these injuries, the team can help some 6-million people to an annual tune of just over $25 billion.

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