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17th June 2022

Smart skin and bio-bandages: Evolving medical technology

Skin substitutes and cutaneous manifestations of modern technology

Biological Bandages

For cutaneous wounds, regeneration is vital to keep skin functions and maintain human survival. When the ability of the skin to heal is compromised due to the damage of resident cells and vasculature, coordinated response in the regeneration process is hindered. Covering the wounds with temporal skin substitutes can play a major role in skin regeneration as they allow a rapid wound covering, significantly reducing the risk of infection, secondary corrective surgeries rate, and hospitalization time and costs.

Cell-based covers have long been perceived to offer benefits over synthetic bandages. They have an active function in wound healing, including faster healing, minimizing scar formation, and preparing the wound bed for subsequent grafting.

A 2019 magazine reported that scientists at the University of Bremen developed a three-dimensional protein structure in the laboratory that could help to heal wounds in the future. They intended to produce a kind of biological bandage made from the blood of the person who will use it. Also, the Burn Center of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) has developed Progenitor Biological Bandages (PBB) to support wound healing of donor site wound (DSW) as well as 2nd-degree burn wounds. PBB are composed of human skin progenitor cells and have been applied at the CHUV under emergency circumstances in patients with a total body surface area (TBSA) higher than 10% (in children) and 20% (in adults).

Recently, a group of researchers at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, led by Oliver Lieleg, Professor of Biomechanics at the same University developed a film that acts as a biological bandage. The film also repels bacteria, helps wounds heal faster, releases active pharmaceutical ingredients in a targeted manner, dampens inflammation, and eventually dissolves by itself.

This unique bio bandage made from mucins, molecules naturally present in mucous membranes of humans, could also be used in surgery to protect internal wounds which are inaccessible after the closure of an incision for surgery. They could be used for soft tissue injuries, too.

Smart Skin

Medical technology is currently advancing and bringing in new inventions. Among all these is the smart skin, helping us interact with machines or monitor our health parameters constantly. Many fields of application are now opening up for the skin-like hybrid material or prostheses that can detect microorganisms and report them to the brain or give the wearer information about temperature or humidity.

A researcher of the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Graza, Anna Maria Coclite has recently succeeded in developing the three-in-one hybrid material “smart skin” using a novel process, as reported by the research published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. The hybrid smart skin has a couple of thousands of sensors per millimetre and is found to be more sensitive than the fingertip. Each sensor consists of a hydrogel and piezoelectric zinc oxide which act together to respond to changes in humidity and temperature and mechanical stresses with an electrical signal.

The human skin is a sensory organ and perceives things from a size of about one square millimetre. With a resolution that is a thousand times smaller, the smart skin can register objects or microorganisms that are too small for human skin.

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