A new “smart bandage” has been developed that can detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers before they are visible to the human eye. This research is described in the journal Nature Communications.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco printed dozens of electrodes onto a thin, flexible film and then discharged a very small current between the electrodes. This created a map of the underlying tissue based on the flow of electricity at varying frequencies, a process known as impedance spectroscopy. As skin cells begin to break down, the electrical signals are able to “leak through” to indicate early tissue damage.

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In the study, the bare skin of rats was gently squeezed between two magnets to mimic a pressure wound. The magnets remained in place for one or three hours as the rats continued normal activity. After the magnets were removed and blood flow resumed, the resulting inflammation and oxidative damage led to the acceleration of cell death. The “smart bandage” was utilized to collect data once a day for at least three days for wound progression tracking. The “smart bandage” was successful in detecting changes in electrical resistance consistent with increased membrane permeability and cell death. An hour of magnet pressure produced mild, reversible tissue damage compared to three hours that produced more serious and permanent injuries.

A clinical trial of the bandage is now underway and led by study co-author Dr. David Young, professor of surgery at the University of California- San Francisco.

For more information visit Berkeley.edu.