While the only bone I’ve ever broken was one of my my pinky toes, and I’ve never suffered some other serious injury (knock on wood!), I have certainly had to use bandages on many occasions. I fell down and skidded on the driveway when I was five and had to bandage up my severely scraped knees, and tripped over a curb on my way to kickboxing class just a few years ago and had to put bandages on my bleeding palms, and wore Ace bandages for multiple wrist and ankle sprains from marching band-related injuries during high school. The problem with bandages is that they’re not see-through, so you can’t really tell if an injury is healing properly until you remove the bandage. But researchers at Swansea University are using 3D printing technology to change that.
The research project, led by the Institute of Life Science (ILS) at Swansea, centers around a 3D printed smart bandage, which will use built-in nano-sized sensors and 5G wireless data to track the patient’s activity levels and healing process, and then transmit that information back to the treating physician. This is not the first 3D printed bandage we’ve seen; even back in 2014, a group of University of Toronto graduate students developed skin-like 3D bioprinted bandages that could help advance the treatment of burns. But the research being conducted at the ILS is the first we’ve seen where the bandage itself actually transmits information back to the doctor.
Nanotechnology experts will develop the sensors, and to keep costs down and customization available, 3D printers on campus at the ILS will manufacture the bandages. The nano-sized sensors that will be integrated into the 3D printed bandages will be able to detect blood clots and infections in the actual wound, and then wirelessly transmit the information to the treating physician so steps can be taken to hasten the patient’s healing process. In addition, this cutting-edge smart bandage will also keep the patient informed of the healing process, by connecting with their smartphone and monitoring everything from diet to exercise, and of course, the wound healing process. If the wound becomes infected, the smart bandage will change color, alerting the patient to seek medical attention.This research is part of the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City deal, which is attempting to develop a 5G test hub to drive digital innovation.
Professor Marc Clement, ILS chairman, said, “5G is an opportunity to produce resilient, robust bandwidth that is always there for the purpose of healthcare.”
The deal, which was signed less than a month ago by UK and Welsh government ministers, aims to transform the area’s economic landscape, by boosting the local economy by £1.8 billion and creating nearly 10,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. The Swansea Bay City deal will allow 11 major projects in the smart manufacturing, energy, life science, and innovation fields, including the 3D printed smart bandage research, to get started.
Professor Clement claims that healthcare officials will be equipped to deliver better services, and ensure that patients can have an improved quality of life, through this “multi-technology approach, with nanotechnology, nanoelectronics, printing and coating biochemistry all interconnecting through 5G infrastructure.”
According to Professor Clement, experts at the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre are also involved in the 3D printed smart bandage project. The ILS research team’s 3D printed smart bandages have begun the clinical trial phase, which is taking place through Swansea University’s ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health) wellness and innovation ecosystem for South West Wales region. Professor Clement said that if the trials are successful, “the next logical step would be to make these bandages available to healthcare at an affordable rate.” Discuss in the Smart Bandages forum at 3DPB.com. [Sources: Tech Times, BBC]“What we’re creating within this city deal, is an ecosystem that can prove concept, prove business, manufacture locally and take innovation to a global marketplace,” Professor Clement explained.
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