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Is an Electric Band-aid About to Transform First Aid?

Did you know that by the year 2020 the adhesive Band-Aid that has become the most popular item in First-Aid boxes around the world would have been in existence for exactly a century and yet it remains very valuable and relevant?

However, over time in the last hundred years, the medical field has experienced tremendous breakthroughs and has significantly grown.

From the discovery of penicillin in 1928 which ushered in the era of antibiotics as a valuable part of medicine, to the complete eradication of smallpox from the surface of this planet in 1980, there is no doubt that advancement is ever ongoing in this profession.

Having said all of that, if you take a close look at a Band-Aid you have in your medicine cabinet, and you compare it with what was available at its first creation, you would discover that the adhesive bandage is pretty much the same thing as they had in the 1920s. Nothing but simple adhesive and cotton yet they still do a fantastic job.

Electric Band-aid

Nevertheless, in the world we live in, nothing, no matter how simple can resist innovation forever. Doctors and scientists around the world have been doing lots of studies and research on how to take bandage technology to the next level and achieve some improvement.

A glimpse into the future of Band-Aid

A research article was recently published in the journal ACSNANO, and it gives us an idea of what the next bandage invention would look like.

In the article, scientists show how it is possible for the electric fields to facilitate faster wound healing and regeneration in lab rats. Nevertheless, the use of electric stimulation is not new as it has been studied for many years as a therapy for the healing of wounds.

The innovation of the new research is a bandage. The use of electrical stimulation for the healing of wounds has been greatly hindered by the fact that it requires the use of bulky machinery to generate the required electric current which would require the patient to go through several sessions that might take as much as 8 hours at a time. The sessions are typically done while the patient is asleep.

Well, this new experimental bandage is the direct opposite of what was obtainable in the past: it is not only lightweight, it is super flexible. But the most interesting part of this invention is that it only requires the use of human body movement to power itself, just the way some modern-day watches work.

During an interview with Healthline, Dr Xudong Qang, PhD who is an author of the paper and professor of material science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said: “We developed this wearable bandage device that can significantly facilitate the recovery of wounds.

So, this device is self-powered and self-sustainable and works without any battery or an electric circuit.”  He added that “This works by converting the small mechanical displacement of the surface of the skin and converting it into electric pulses and facilitate recovery by using the electric pulses.”

This bandage consists of a copper band with electrodes and also a nanogenerator, you attach the bandage to the skin where the devices electric current mimics the human body’s natural endogenous electric field to help with the regrowth of skin.

This field specifically causes the proliferation the cells known as fibroblasts and fibroblasts makes collagen and guide the regeneration of skin.

Wang added that “We really just transformed those systems into a tiny wearable device that you can wear daily. Just like the regular bandage.Affordable, disposable, and portable.”

To confirm the effectiveness of this bandage, the scientists tested the experimental bandage that had an electric field against the same injury dressing but without the use of an electric field.

The research showed that even on cuts that were more serious (like the rectangular and deep ones compared to the simple liner ones), the mice that got the electric current got healed at a significantly faster rate.

The deep cuts closed up in as little as three days compared to the control group that took 12 days to heal.

The outcomes of the experiment are very promising, and Dr Wang believes that the combination of the portability provided by the nano generators and the electric stimulation could finally cause a forward push for a technology that has been difficult to use due to lots of technological limitations.

However, other challenges exist because rats are not humans. There is the need for more research to be done on skin that is close to human-like such as that of a pig before moves can be made to have clinical trials on people.

This entire process will take many years, and that is if at all it works on humans as effectively as it did on rats.

An assistant clinical professor at the UCLA’s division of plastic surgery and also a specialist in scar management Dr Andrew Vardanian said during an interview with Healthline that even though there are some promising studies on electric stimulation therapy for the treatment of wounds, it is still not a widely used technic by doctors.

He said he was sure that majority if not all wound centres do not make use of this technology. One reason for this would be that the technology is not available in such a way that it could be easily translated to patients in a wound healing centre or a wound clinic.

Secondly, he said he doesn’t think that the data really shows that it works in such a way that it would be wise to invest in it on a large scale. Despite Dr Vardanian’s reservations, he admits that the technology has some exciting potentials.

He said, “I think that making use of the nanotech to create the electric energy could be a means of delivering it to injuries that may not otherwise be amenable to it because of the bulky devices and things that might be essential.”

Specifically for some kinds of injuries, the promise of a potable kind of electric stimulation device may be a really powerful tool.

While it is basic knowledge that small wounds such as a cut on the finger will heal in a short time using the natural body process, wounds like ulcers related to diabetes or even burns will not heal that fast.

New ways for wound treatments

This is not the only research that has been done on dressings and bandages. Researchers at Northwestern University recently experimented with a certain type of dressing that changes from liquid to gel for patients of diabetes. The team of researchers discovered that individuals with the bandage had their diabetic wounds heal faster by 33 per cent.

People who have diabetes are also at risk of having foot ulcers, and that can lead to some severe infection, maybe hospitalisation or even amputation. About 24 per cent of foot ulcers in people dealing with diabetes mostly requires an amputation.

Some old studies show that electric stimulation for foot ulcers in diabetic patients improved healing. Also burns and scars that result from them could potentially benefit from the technology.

Band-Aids remain one of the simplest inventions, yet it prevents fungus, dirt, and bacteria from causing infections on our wounds. That’s a little thing doing so much great work.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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