Bio dressing, the next ‘holy grail’ of medical technology!

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Smart skin can help us interact with machines or constantly monitor our health parameters

By Kiran N. Kumar

In a major discovery, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany, have developed a film that acts as a biological bandage. It also helps wounds heal faster, repels bacteria, reduces inflammation, releases active pharmaceutical ingredients in a targeted manner, and ultimately dissolves on its own.

With its dedicated all-in-one design using mucins, molecules naturally present in human mucous membranes, this unique bio bandage could also be used in surgery to protect inaccessible internal wounds after a surgical incision has been closed. They are also suitable for soft tissue injuries such as on the tongue or on sensitive surfaces such as the intestines.

Although several materials meet the medical need, here is an all-in-one solution developed by the German team led by Oliver Lieleg, professor of biomechanics at TUM. The biopolymer film combines a wide range of different functions with very promising results.

Read: American Indian Manu Prakash innovates medical use of ancient paper toy whirlwind (April 10, 2017)

“Once dry, the thin, flexible film can be grasped with tweezers and can easily be placed over a wound. When in contact with a damp fabric, the underside of the film becomes spongy and sticky and adheres to the fabric on its own – without the need for additional fixation,” says Ceren Kimna, first author of the study. Covering a skin wound with this film even accelerated the healing process, she says.

electronic skin
In the same vein, the materials of current medical technology are increasingly giving life to new inventions whose contours of the medical field could change radically in a few decades. Body film or a thin biofilm on our hand can help us interact with machines or constantly monitor our health parameters.

The skin is the largest sensory organ and the protective layer of human beings, in addition to acting as an intermediary to feel several sensory inputs and instantly reports information about humidity, temperature and pressure to the brain.

Several fields of application are now opening up for the hybrid skin-like material that can detect microorganisms and signal them to the brain. Also being developed are prostheses that give the wearer information about temperature or humidity, or robots that can perceive their surroundings more sensitively.

Among all these, here is a smart skin that marks a decisive advantage: the sensory nanorods – the “intelligent heart” of the material – are produced using a steam-based manufacturing process, which is already a process established in integrated circuit production factories. . The production of smart skin can thus be easily extended and implemented easily.

Anna Maria Coclite, a researcher at TU Graza’s Institute of Solid State Physics, says the material with such multisensory properties is “a kind of ‘holy grail’ in medical technology using smart artificial materials. In particular, robotics and smart prostheses would benefit from a better integrated and more accurate sensing system similar to human skin, she says.

Coclite recently succeeded in developing the three hybrid material into a “smart skin” using a new process, according to the research publication in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

With 2,000 individual sensors per square millimeter, they discovered that this hybrid smart skin is even more sensitive than a human fingertip. Each of these sensors is made of a unique combination of materials: a smart polymer in the form of a hydrogel inside and a piezoelectric zinc oxide shell.

“The hydrogel can absorb water and thus expands with changes in humidity and temperature. In doing so, it puts pressure on the piezoelectric zinc oxide, which responds to this and all other mechanical stresses. by an electrical signal”, explains Anna Maria Coclite.

The result is a very thin biofilm that reacts simultaneously to force, humidity and temperature with extremely high spatial resolution and emits corresponding electronic signals.

Read: Medical Pressure Sensitive Adhesives: In Search of the Holy Grail (August 13, 2022)

“The first samples of artificial skin are six micrometers thick, or 0.006 millimeters. But it could be even thinner,” she says. In comparison, the human epidermis is 0.03 to 2 millimeters thick. Human skin perceives things from a size of about one square millimeter. The individual sensor layers are very thin and at the same time equipped with full-surface sensor elements.

The smart skin has a thousand times smaller resolution and can record objects or microorganisms that are too small for human skin. This was made possible by researchers who for the first time combined three known methods of physical chemistry – chemical vapor deposition for the hydrogel material, atomic layer deposition for the zinc oxide, and nanoimprint lithography. for the polymer model.

The properties of the smart skin are now further optimized, as Coclite and his team want to extend the temperature range at which the material reacts and improve the flexibility of the artificial skin.


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