Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Smart bandage' knows when bleeding stops

Imagine a stick-on bandage that looks just like the one your mother put on your scraped knee, but it has special powers. This bandage is coated with an invisible layer of graphene, a nano-material that is 1,000 times stronger than steel, yet only one molecule thick and extremely flexible. The graphene coating speeds up the wound-healing process, then gives a signal when the bleeding has stopped.

Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms.
In the above video, researchers discuss their prototype of this “smart bandage.” The inventors, who have filed a provisional patent, include Emory pediatrician Wilbur Lam, who is trained in hematology and bioengineering, and Zhigang Jiang and Anton Siderov, both physicists at Georgia Tech.

Animal studies have shown that graphene causes blood clots to form if the material is used internally, a red flag to the biomedical community.

“We’re flipping that around and using that to our advantage,” Lam explains. “It might not be safe to use graphene in vivo, but perhaps on the outside, where you have a vascular injury, you actually want to induce clot formation.”

The electrochemical properties of graphene add to its potential for making a better bandage, particularly for chronic wounds, Lam adds. “During clot formation on a graphene bandage there’s an electrical signal that changes. So now you have this bandage that is not only better at inducing clotting, but you have a way to detect when a clot has formed, when you’re able to peel it off.”

Graphene image: AlexanderAIUS via Wikipedia Commons.

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