New Aerogel-based Smart Wound Dressings Could Change the way we Treat Wounds

A new material could change the way wound dressings are designed and used, if an MIT project finds success. Scientists have developed an aerogel – a sticky, gel-like material – that can stretch freely and can even be given a smart touch by fitting it with sensors, LED lights, and a drug delivery mechanism. By simply placing this futuristic dressing on the skin, medicine in the desired quantity is released to treat superficial wounds.

What’s also unique about this wound dressing is that it senses and responds to any changes in skin temperature to adjust dosage. And, the LED lights embedded in the sticky material can be designed to light up when drug-delivering reservoirs begin to dip below the specified levels. The team of researchers has designed the aerogel in a manner that it not only securely adheres to the skin, but remains highly flexible even when applied to joints, such as knees and elbows. 

The hydrogel matrix, on which the aerogel is based, has been designed by Xuanhe Zhao, a professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the MIT. Besides the skin, the hydrogen also sticks very securely to surfaces such as glass, aluminum, silicon, titanium, gold, and ceramic. 

The applications of this material could possibly go beyond the skin’s surface, according to Zhao. The material could, for instance, be used for making soft probes that need to be used in delicate organs such as the brain. Scientists also say that besides drug delivery, the device can prove to be a game-changer in health monitoring, where implantable devices are becoming a sizeable trend.

The advent of smart wound dressings could create an entirely new market. Globally, the wound dressing market is expected to rise to a value of US$10.16 bn by 2020, according to Transparency Market Research. Smart wound dressings, if they are able to reach commercialization soon, could hold a small share in this market over the next few years, especially in the wake of higher demand for home-based care.

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