Smart bandages – biomedical devices able to dress and electronically monitor tissue damage – could be heading toward clinical trials within the next year. That means they’re edging a step closer to you, the patient.
The intelligent bandages use nano-sized sensors to assess the state of a wound without the need to unravel them. The real-time data can be sent to medics through 5G mobile Internet networks, allowing them to make remote, informed, and updated treatments for the patient.
Scientists from the Institute of Life Science (ILS) at Swansea University in Wales told BBC News they hope to test these bandages in clinical trials in the UK within the next 12 months.
Professor Marc Clement, chairman of ILS, recently told BBC News: "It would connect that wound to a 5G infrastructure and that infrastructure through your telephone will also know things about you – where you are, how active you are at any one time.”
He added: "You combine all of that intelligence so the clinician knows the performance of the specific wound at any specific time and can then tailor the treatment protocol to the individual and wound in question."
One of the first proper incarnations of this technology was originally presented in a 2015 Nature Communications study as a “flexible, electronic device that non-invasively maps pressure-induced tissue damage, even when such damage cannot be visually observed.” However, the bulk of that study was carried out on rats (as is often the way). A few other researchers have picked up the baton since, but there hasn't been much in the way of practical uses.
All medicines and medical products have to undergo a series of scientifically controlled trials before they make it to market to ensure they are both safe and effective. These results are then presented to a governing body, who decide whether they can actually be distributed. Although the total timescale is unclear and potentially grueling, it's a very positive step towards making this smart biomedical technology available to patients.