By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Melbourne researchers have come up with new “smart bandage” that changes colour depending on the temperature of the skin beneath, giving health professionals a powerful new tool for treating wounds and monitoring possible infections.
This came from Monash University team. PhD student Louise van der Werff said the bandage could enable chronic wounds to be treated quicker. Heat-sensitive fibres woven into the bandage are able to register temperature variations of less than 0.5 of a degree. The Smart Bandage research project was led by Robin Cranston who said, “Having the ability to collect a broader range of data on a wound’s status will have a significant impact on the understanding of chronic wounds and how best to treat them.”
Chronic wounds afflict up to 3per cent of Australians, costing the health budget more than $500 million a year, the researchers say.
The smart bandage can indicate increases in temperature that may result from fevers and infections, or decreases resulting from medical issues such as blood clots. “We’ve tuned the fibre to show a healthy temperature as green. Dropping under that turns the bandage red and above is blue. It’s a little counter-intuitive,” Ms van der Werff said.
The research project is backed by a bandage manufacturer which Ms van der Werff declined to name for reasons of commercial confidentiality. The smart bandage now enters a trial phase and will take up to five years to come to market, according to Ms van der Werff. The new bandages have been announced as part of Fresh Science, a Federal Government-backed initiative for showcasing the work of young Australian scientists. Ms van der Werff is one of 16 early-career scientists chosen to present their research to the public for the first time as part of Fresh Science.
Other applications for the “thermochromic” fibres could include for weather-sensitive clothing, and even fashion. “I don’t want to try to revisit the whole hypercolour fad. This material is a bit more sophisticated, but it would be nice to see it get used in the fashion industry,” Ms van der Werff said.