Technology and engineering researchers at the University of South Australia have created a range of sensors that can detect changes in a wound environment and alert a patient or medical staff by changing the colour of the dressing or even sending a message to a smart phone.
Prototypes have been developed for three different concepts, each unique in its own way.
“We’re excited by the results,” said Professor Nico Voelcker, Deputy Director of the University’s Mawson Institute.
“The proof of concept is there; now we are looking to undertake clinical testing and establish a pathway to manufacture.”
The first concept builds specially created sensors into polymers that can be produced as thin films and incorporated into the dressing material. These change colour when the sensor detects changes in temperature or pH levels, which can indicate inflammation or infection.
What makes this approach different to others being trialled is that it uses photonics rather than potentially toxic chromophores or fluorophores. There are no dyes or chemicals. The colour comes from the way light interacts with the multi-layered structure of the sensor, in much the same way as we see colour on a butterfly’s wing or a beetle’s shell.
In a related project, the researchers are investigating the potential for these smart dressings to automatically release a drug in response to changes in the wound environment; if the temperature of a wound reaches a certain level, for example, an antibiotic is dispensed.
The second concept uses a telemetric approach. Miniature electrical sensors incorporated into a dressing monitor changes in moisture levels in the wound or whether the pressure in a compression bandage has dropped below acceptable levels.