Scientists have designed smart wound dressings with integrated nanosensors that glow brightly to inform patients when a wound is not healing correctly.
These antimicrobial, multifunctional dressings include fluorescent sensors that glow brightly when exposed to UV light on the onset of infection and can be used for monitoring the healing process.
A research team from RMIT University has developed smart dressings that manipulate the potent antifungal and antibacterial properties of magnesium hydroxide. When compared to silver-based dressing, the smart dressings can be produced cost-effectively but are equally effective in fighting fungi and bacteria, thanks to their antimicrobial power that lasts up to a week.
According to Project leader Dr. Vi Khanh Truong, the development of low-cost antimicrobial dressing with integrated healing sensors would be a remarkable advancement in wound care.
Currently the only way to check the progress of wounds is by removing bandage dressings, which is both painful and risky, giving pathogens the chance to attack. The smart dressings we’ve developed not only fight bacteria and reduce inflammation to help promote healing, they also have glowing sensors to track and monitor for infection.
Dr. Vi Khanh Truong, Project Leader and Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, RMIT University
“Being able to easily see if something is going wrong would reduce the need for frequent dressing changes and help to keep wounds better protected. With further research, we hope our multifunctional dressings could become part of a new generation of low-cost, magnesium-based technologies for advanced wound care,” added Dr. Truong.
Next-Generation Wound Dressing
The current value of the global advanced wound dressing stands at around $US 6. 9 billion and this is anticipated to grow to $US9.9 billion by 2028. This demand was created by technological innovations, the growing prevalence of chronic diseases and chronic wounds, like cancer and diabetes, and the rising numbers of surgical procedures.
Despite knowing the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and highly biocompatible properties of magnesium, only little practical research has been made on how it could be applied to medically relevant surfaces, such as bandages and dressings.
The study lead author Dr. Adam Truskewycz (currently at the University of Bergen in Norway) is the first to design fluorescent magnesium hydroxide nanosheets that can adapt to the curves of bandage fibers. The study has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
The researchers successfully produced the nanosheets, which measure 10,000 to 100,000 times thinner than a single strand of human hair and integrated them into the nanofibers.
The nanosheets of magnesium hydroxide react to pH changes, making them suitable for use as sensors and for monitoring the healing process.
While healthy skin is naturally acidic, the infected wound is moderately alkaline. When exposed to UV lights, the magnesium hydroxide nanosheets glow brightly in alkaline conditions but fade in acidic environments, which indicates the different pH levels representing the stages of wound healing.
The nanosheets can be easily incorporated into any biocompatible nanofiber, meaning that they can be later deposited onto regular cotton bandages. Laboratory tests have revealed that magnesium hydroxides are safe for human cells and can destroy emerging pathogens, like Candida auri and drug-resistant golden staph.
Scalable and Cost-Effective
Dr. Truong added that the fabrication process of fluorescent nanosheets can be easily scaled up for potential large-scale production.
Normally, antimicrobial wound dressings start to lose their performance after a few days but our studies show these new dressings could last up to seven days. And because magnesium is so abundant compared to silver, our advanced dressings could be up to 20 times cheaper.
Dr Vi Khanh Truong, Project Leader and Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, RMIT University
The researchers are looking forward to teaming up with clinicians to further develop the technology via pre-clinical and clinical trials.
The multi-disciplinary study was jointly authored by RMIT researchers Dr. Nazim Nassar from the School of Science, Dr. Shadi Houshyar and Dr. Hong Yin from the School of Engineering, Dr. Billy Murdoch from RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility, Professor Ivan Cole, Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Fabrication Enabling Capability Platform and Leader of RDF Group, and Professor Andy Ball, Director of the ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australian Biosolids Resource.
The Australian-American Fulbright Program has funded the study.
Truskewycz, A, et al. (2021) Fluorescent Magnesium Hydroxide Nanosheet Bandages with Tailored Properties for Biocompatible Antimicrobial Wound Dressings and pH Monitoring, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. doi.org/10.1021/acsami.1c05908.