Smart bandage will help wounds heal

Monday 12th August 2019

Scottish researchers are developing a ‘bandage’ sensor to help detect how wounds are healing.

At the moment, measuring the progress of injuries such as burns, cuts and surgical scars relies on patients reporting pain and health professionals looking to judge if it is improving.

Engineers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are working to create a tiny microsensor which can be embedded in bandages to measure how tissue is changing.

Doctors will then be alerted if the wound needs a different dressing or treatment.

Managing wounds such as burns, diabetic ulcers, caesarean section scars and even simple cuts cost the NHS as much as £5bn each year.

Dr Michael Crichton, a biomedical engineer at Heriot-Watt University, said: “We want to understand what actually happens in a wound.  

“Lots of research has looked at the biological properties of wounds, but we know very little about the mechanics of how wounds heal, especially at the microscale, which is where changes are happening at sub-hair width scales. 

“We’re working to create a small sensor that can be embedded in a bandage to measure changes in a wound’s properties without interfering with the process. 

“The sensor will make small mechanical measurements - much like how a doctor would prod a lump - and will tell us how the tissue is changing, or whether the wound needs a different dressing or treatment.” 

Dr Crichton has been awarded £360,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for a two-year project to develop the microsensor.

The findings of the study could also be potentially applied to other tissues and organs, such as monitoring liver or kidney damage or cancers.

Dr Crichton added: “Some tissues and organs have the same structural components as skin, so researchers and practitioners in those areas are likely to take a great interest in our project.”

Dr Jenna Cash, a specialist in wound healing immunology from the University of Edinburgh, who is also working on the project, added: “This is an innovative, patient-focused research project that addresses the urgent need for us to better understand wounds.”