Smart Color-changing Wound Dressing for Skin Repair

Researchers at the University of Bath and the burns team at the Pediatric Burns Center at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol have been working with nanotechnology to develop a medical dressing that detects and treats infection in wounds. According to a university announcement, the advanced wound dressing will be designed to release antibiotics from nanocapsules when triggered by disease-causing pathogenic bacteria, thus targeting the treatment before infection occurs. In addition, the dressings will change color when the antibiotic is released to alerting health care professionals that there is infection in the wound.

According to the report, the €4.5 million European Commission-funded project is a collaboration of 11 partners from Europe and Australia and is coordinated by Renate Förch, MD, at the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research (Germany), which will develop the prototype dressing in four years as well as work with industry on a pre-pilot scale manufacturing process. The dressings could therefore be available within a few years after completion of the project.

“This means that antibiotics are only released when needed, which reduces the risk of the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant super-bugs," explained Amber Young, MD, a pediatric burn specialist at Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital, in the press announcement. She added, “Conventional dressings [must] be removed if the skin becomes infected, which slows healing . . .[but] this advanced dressing will speed up treatment because it is automatically triggered to release antibiotics only when the wound becomes infected, meaning that the dressing will not need to be removed, thereby increasing the chances of the wound healing without scarring."

The researchers reportedly have already  tested a fabric coated with nanocapsules that react specifically to harmful bacteria. In the next four years the team will work on integrating the color change technology into a suitable dressing as well as look at cost-effective routes for industrial production.

This work relates closely to the formulation of topical products in that it suggests a novel delivery method for skin repair actives as well as an interesting consumer-perceivable color-change indicator. Perhaps its application in skin care rests on the horizon.

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