Smart dressings monitor wound healing
The ability to track the healing process of a wound could become easier thanks to the next generation of wound dressings developed by a team of scientists and engineers at RMIT University.
Harnessing the powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties of magnesium hydroxide, the multifunctional, antimicrobial dressings feature fluorescent sensors that glow brightly under UV light if infection starts to set in and can be used to monitor healing progress.
Healthy skin is naturally slightly acidic while infected wounds are moderately alkaline.
Under UV light, the nanosheets glow brightly in alkaline environments and fade in acidic conditions, indicating the different pH levels that mark the stages of wound healing.
Project leader Dr Vi Khanh Truong said the development of cost-effective antimicrobial dressings with built-in healing sensors would be a significant advance 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,” Dr Truong said.
Though magnesium is known to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and highly biocompatible, there has been little practical research on how it could be used on medically relevant surfaces like dressings and bandages.
The study published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, with lead author Dr Adam Truskewycz (now at the University of Bergen, Norway), is the first to develop fluorescent magnesium hydroxide nanosheets that could contour to the curves of bandage fibres.
Dr Truong said the dressings are cheaper to produce than silver-based dressings but equally as effective in fighting bacteria and fungi – laboratory tests showed the magnesium hydroxide nanosheets were non-toxic to human cells, while destroying emerging pathogens like drug-resistant golden staph and Candida auris – with their antimicrobial power lasting up to a week.
Once proven, Dr Truong said the technology has the potential for both clinical and personal use and suitability for all types of wounds as the nanosensors are built into the dressing.
The research team is looking to collaborate with clinicians to further progress the technology, through pre-clinical and clinical trials.
The research was supported by the Australian-American Fulbright Program.
Caption: The fluorescent nanosensors respond to changes in pH, making them ideal for use as sensors to track healing. Image: RMIT University.