A new type of bandage being developed by scientists at the University of Illinois has the potential to shorten the amount of time required for healing to take place and actually serve to quicken the healing process. The researchers noted that their tests on chicken embryos resulted in a direct mirroring of the blood vessels to the pattern on the bandage, meaning in the future healing could be stimulated to mimic a specific pattern and be programmed in the future.
But these bandages are very unique in another way as well. Rather than depending on the use of simple fabrics to keep wounds shut and sterile, these new bandages actually introduce living tissue in the wound to a specific pattern, effectively closing and shortening healing time – at least that’s what this early stage is suggesting. In the future, scientists may actually be able to shed some light on the way healing works by programming blood vessels into a bandage and then applying that bandage to damaged skin. Additionally, the bandages will likely be of extreme help to surgeons to apply to patients still recovering from surgery and those looking to heal after receiving mild to moderate burns.
But the idea of adding and programming tissue to our skin that has been created in a lab has moved the question of medical science into a realm that is more than likely to make a few uncomfortable. And as is the case with anything new that could mean a great boon to medical science, a few will inevitably ask if these new programming bandages are safe. Rather than simply bandaging our scrapes we may one day be adding synthetic skin to our bodies and allowing it to take over the healing process. So how do these bandages work?
First, the way the bandage guides the blood vessels is very similar to how an ordinary bandage works, but with a few exceptions. Rather than a blank slate which attempts to dam blood into a wound, it instead channels it outward along a pre-programmed track. In this area blood vessels will eventually grow and the skin will heal more quickly with this blueprint stamp as a guide to how to repair itself. And as the microscopic tubes within the bandage accurately allow the blood to flow through in a natural healing pattern, the tissue will regenerate more effectively. The surface is porous, meaning some of the blood will reach the surface after passing through these microscopic channels, but it will also allow the wound to breathe with less fear of infection.
The world of nanotechnology has found its home in medical science and computing quite easily. Perhaps it is the need for precision in these fields that creates an environment where tiny ideas developments can mean the difference between success and failure. No doubt the future will have more incredible developments in the field of medical nanotechnology, but these bandages will be one of the frontier developments to measure how viable nanotechnology is in the big world.