Red means stop and green means go. This has been true for some time and is widely accepted, probably because traffic signals reinforce this behavior on a daily basis. Now these colors are being used to determine if a human wound is healing or not. SMART bandages turn green when oxygen is flowing to wounds and red if oxygen is low.
This is important technology because wounds need sufficient amounts of oxygen to fully heal. However, until now, most bandages actually restrict oxygen flow and hide the healing process, leaving wounds susceptible to unseen complications. With this new “paint-on” translucent bandage, an individual and his or her physician can easily monitor the wound’s healing process.
The creator of the bandage, Conor L. Evans, an assistance professor at Massachusetts General Hospital (at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine) and Harvard Medical School, considers the color changing technology to be a sort of mapping system. For right now, the SMART bandage maps “a wound’s tissue oxygenation concentration.” But this is only part of the bandage’s purpose.
SMART is an acronym for Sensing, Monitoring and Release of Therapeutics. Right now, sensing and monitoring are available thanks to easy-to-follow color changing technology; in the future, the bandage may be capable of “automatically [delivering] drugs at the wound site.”
For now, the bandage uses a viscous liquid that includes phosphors. Phosphors are in many glow-in-the-dark products because they “absorb light and then emit it via a process known as phosphorescence,” explains rdmag.com. This liquid is painted on the first wound. In conjunction with a different top coat, it creates an air-tight sealant that protects the wound while monitoring airflow. Then, a camera is used to activate the phosphor and capture a reading of current oxygen levels (i.e. a map of reds and greens) throughout the wound. Any camera can trigger this process—even a smartphone.
There is no telling when or if color changing bandages will be sold over-the-counter. The research for SMART bandages has been driven by an admirable goal: to help wounded soldiers. SMART bandages may soon go into field testing in efforts to “significantly improve the success of surgeries to restore limbs and physical functions.”
On a large scale, the sensing and monitoring bandage may be the start of precise wound healing. On a small scale, it is pretty cool that a translucent bandage may change color, and in effect, help humans heal.
Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:
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