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Gizmorama - July 11, 2018

Good Morning,

When I have a cut on my finger I go through bandages like crazy. I'm always taking them off to check the cut and then putting them back on or replacing them. Now researchers are developing a smart bandage that not only monitor your wounds, but they deliver healing medication, too. I could certainly use one of those.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Smart bandage can monitor wounds, trigger drug release --*

Researchers have designed a prototype smart bandage that can monitor chronic wounds and deliver medication aimed at improved healing.

Engineers at Tufts University have tested the bandages in a lab, and have started pre-clinical trials, to gauge their efficacy for treatment of chronic skin wounds from burns, diabetes and other conditions. Their findings were have been published in the journal Small.

Chronic wound care affects about 5.7 million people in the United States at an annual cost of $20 billion.

Tufts researchers noted many patients are unable to provide self-care, and their non-healing wounds are treated in an outpatient setting or at home by a caregiver.

Compared to traditional bandages with passive treatment, the researchers developed a smart bandage concept that includes heating elements and thermoresponsive drug carriers that can deliver tailored treatments.

The bandages, which respond to embedded pH and temperature sensors that track infection and inflammation, are less than 3 millimeters thick. All the materials, except for a microprocessor, can be re-used.

"We've been able to take a new approach to bandages because of the emergence of flexible electronics," corresponding co-author Dr. Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University's School of Engineering, said in a press release. "In fact, flexible electronics have made many wearable medical devices possible, but bandages have changed little since the beginnings of medicine. We are simply applying modern technology to an ancient art in the hopes of improving outcomes for an intractable problem."

In wound care, the pH and temperature of a chronic wound needs to be monitored. The smart bandages combine pH and temperature sensors, allowed for continuous monitoring of wounds.

In addition, they developed flexible sensors for oxygenation -- another marker of healing. In addition to heat, the bandages can track inflammation using specific biomarkers.

With a microprocessor reading data from the sensors, drugs can then be released from the bandages carriers by heating an included gel.

"The smart bandage we created, with pH and temperature sensors and antibiotic drug delivery, is really a prototype for a wide range of possibilities," Sonkusale said. "One can imagine embedding other sensing components, drugs and growth factors that treat different conditions in response to different healing markers."

*-- Sounds waves may improve liquid biopsies for cancer --*

Scientists have developed a method for separating circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, from blood samples quickly, which they say could help speed cancer diagnosis.

In a new study, published this week in the journal Small, scientists from Duke University, MIT and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore demonstrate a platform based on sound waves to separate CTCs from a 7.5-ml vial of blood. The process took less than an hour and succeeded with 86 percent efficiency.

The stray tumor cells are known as circulating tumor cells, which are small pieces of a tumor that break away and flow through the bloodstream. They contain information about the tumor, such as its type, physical characteristics and genetic mutations that can help doctors with prognosis and determining the most effective treatments.

The ability to quickly harvest and grow CTCs from a blood sample would enable "liquid biopsies" that could provide a reliable method diagnosis, prognosis and treatment suggestions based on CTC profiling, the researchers say.

"Biopsy is the gold standard technique for cancer diagnosis, but it is painful and invasive and is often not administered until late in the cancer's development," Tony Jun Huang, the William Bevan Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University, said in a press release.

With the team's CTC separation technology, they could find out whether the patient has cancer, where the cancer is located, what stage it's in and which drugs would work best from a small sample of blood instead of invasive surgery, he said.

CTCs are rare and difficult to catch. There are typically only a handful for every few billion blood cells running through a persom's veins, and the many technologies designed to separate them from normal blood cells are flawed. Most damage or kill the cells in the process, lack efficiency, only work on specific types of cancer or take too long to be used in many situations.

The technology works by placing a standing sound wave at an angle to a the fluid flowing through a channel, and the pressure of the sound wave pushes cancer particles in the liquid -- they are larger and more firm than blood cells -- into a separate channel to be collected for analysis.

The sound waves are similar to those in ultrasonic imaging, and there's less risk of damage to the CTCs because each cell experiences the acoustic wave for only a fraction of a second and does not require labeling or surface modification.

The approach was first demonstrated three years ago and has been improved enough to be used in a clinical setting.

With additional improvements to the method, researchers hope the technology will form the basis of a new test through an inexpensive, disposable chip, researchers say.


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