Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a smartphone-controlled plaster that releases medication over time.
The plaster contains electrically conductive fibres coated in hydrogel. Different medications can be included in the gel, such as painkillers or antibiotics, and loaded onto individual fibres. This means multiple medicines can be administered via a single dressing.
A postage-stamp-sized microcontroller sends a voltage to each fibre at chosen times, heating them up and causing the gel to dispense the medication at the site of the wound. This microcontroller can be activated wirelessly by a smartphone app. In the future, sensors could be incorporated into the threads, allowing the plaster to track health indicators such as glucose or pH levels, and self-trigger the automatic delivery of medication as required.
This may be particularly useful for people with diabetes, or soldiers working in environments where there are numerous pathogens – although the applications are endless.
"This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release," said Ali Tamayol, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "You can release multiple drugs with different release profiles. That's a big advantage in comparison with other systems. What we did here was come up with a strategy for building a bandage from the bottom up."