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Future Tech: 

Smart bandages make bedsores a thing of the past

It may be smart, but we bet it's still hellish to remove.

It may be smart, but we bet it’s still hellish to remove. (Image: UC Berkeley)

Most of us don’t spend many of our daily free minutes thinking about bedsores. The irony is that if you’re bedridden and have all the time in the world, you can think of little else. They’re more than just an irritant: they can develop into dangerous infections and increase the risk of a patient dying. The trouble is that when swollen ulcers – the first sign of bedsores – appear, it’s usually too late to stop some of the worst effects.

Fortunately, people far smarter than us have thought of an answer: a team of researchers from UC Berkeley have just pioneered the smart bandage!

Here’s how it works: the smart bandage has a layer of electrodes printed onto a thin film, loaded with an electric current. In healthy cells, the membrane is sealed, letting out no electric charge, but when the cells die electrical signals can ‘leak out’, alerting doctors to cells dying before the effects are visible to the human eye. The technique is known as impedance spectroscopy.

Sure enough, tests on rats seemed to confirm it. With the tiny rat bandage in place, scientists were alerted to dying cells before they would otherwise be detectable. The next step is human trials.

“Our device is a comprehensive demonstration that tissue health in a living organism can be locally mapped using impedance spectroscopy,” Sarash Swisher, the study’s lead author told Gizmag.

“In the past, people have used impedance spectroscopy for cell cultures or relatively simple measurements in tissue. What makes this unique is extending that to detect and extract useful information from wounds developing in the body. That’s a big leap.”

Bedsores have long been a problem, but past techniques to prevent them have taken a less advanced, more straightforward approach. From bed linen designed to minimize contact with the skin to a terrifying sounding bed of our nightmares, that will flip patients in case hospital staff forget. This is a big breakthrough if it can become part of hospital culture.

You can read the full study in Nature Communications.

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