People in the 1950s: “By the 21st century, we’ll have the technology to heal any wound in seconds!”
People in 2017: “I just stepped on another gross, wet Band-Aid at the pool.”
Sadly, the Star Trek-style medical technology we’ve all wished for any time we’ve cut ourselves cooking doesn’t exist yet — but we’re trying! Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT recently joined forces to design a smart bandage that claims to regenerate skin tissue three times faster than standard bandages. Minor wounds usually heal within three weeks, but theoretically this high-tech bandage could help wounds heal within days.
“Normal bandages are designed to passively support endogenous healing by ‘sealing’ the wound from the outside environment while physiological healing occurs,” explains researcher Giorgio Giatsidis. “These next-generation bandages are designed to actively induce wound healing by providing factors that accelerate and strengthen healing locally.”
They do this with the help of electrically conductive fibers, coated in a gel that can be individually loaded with infection-fighting antibiotics, tissue-regenerating growth factors, painkillers or whatever medications best serve the wound at hand (or the wound on your hand).
While the researchers envision their new-age bandage being used initially to treat chronic skin wounds that stem from diabetes and arthritis — those that refuse to heal within a predictable amount of time, and therefore, result in infections and even amputations — Giatsidis believes their use may someday expand to everyday injuries. “In addition to accelerating the healing process, our bandage might improve regenerative outcomes, such as providing less scarring,” he says.
Still, even in the wake of his research, Giatsidis believes technology that immediately heals wounds is a long way off. “The goal here is to achieve normal healing — and eventually scarless healing — in all the cases that normal healing doesn’t occur,” he emphasizes — not, in other words, to create something that instantly fixes every cut and scrape. Such technology, he says, “might be futuristic.”
So don’t throw those Band-Aids out just yet.