A new smart bandage containing flexible electronics can detect tissue damage before it is visible, which is critical for treatment. A team of engineers from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco printed dozens of golden electrodes onto thin, flexible film to create the bandage. They used a technique called impedance spectroscopy, which involves discharging a small current between the electrodes to create a spatial map of the underlying tissue based on the flow of electricity at difference frequencies.
In this way, they could take advantage of the electrical changes that occur when a healthy cell starts dying. Healthy cells are sealed, but in a dying cell the membrane breaks down and lets the electric charge through. In the past, impedance spectroscopy has been used for cell cultures or other simple tissue measurements. This study is unique because it extends that to detect and extract useful information from wounds in the body.
The researchers tested the smart bandage on rats and confirmed that it is able to detect changes in electrical resistance that reveal signs of dying cells. The team suggests that the technology can easily be miniaturized, and they expect the bandage to be able to offer many insights about how unhealthy tissue is formed in the near future. The smart bandage will help with bedsores, a common health problem that affects 2.5 million Americans at an annual cost of $11 billion.