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Barking up the right tree to solve chronic wounds

Smiling researchers holds a bandage prototype and a dog in their lab.Professors Shaurya Prakash (left) and Vish Subramaniam with the electronic bandage that is healing wounds in people and pets.

Bandages infused with electricity are being used to speed wound healing in pets and people.

The new, patented bandage technology developed by Ohio State engineering researchers has already been beneficial for a four-year-old dog that suffered from a chronic wound. Today, Daisy is completely healed, thanks to a collaboration between Ohio State’s College of Engineering and College of Veterinary Medicine.

Meet Daisy

Late in 2017, Daisy suffered from a large, infected non-healing wound. Existing treatment methods and antibiotics weren’t helping. Then, her veterinarian had an idea.

“I had heard about a printed electroceutical dressing being developed in the College of Engineering to help non-healing wounds,” said Kathleen Ham, DVM, formerly with the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. “Daisy seemed like the perfect candidate to benefit from its use.”

Ham reached out to the team of mechanical engineers behind the device, who, along with Daisy’s owners, agreed to test it.

Within one week of using the bandage, half of Daisy’s four-centimeter-long wound had healed. After 11 days, the infection had cleared. The bandage was removed and the wound was treated with standard care. After 67 days post-treatment, it had healed completely.

Printed electroceutical dressing

The bandage belongs to a class of therapies called electroceuticals—devices that use electrical impulses to treat medical issues such as wounds.

Composed of a silver-based ink printed on silk fabric and connected to a battery, the printed electroceutical dressing works by generating electric stimulations across the wound-dressing interface to aid healing. The electrochemical stimulation has shown nearly no adverse impact on underlying tissue.

“The antimicrobial bandage is designed to enhance the healing of chronic and non-healing wounds that are resistant to antibiotic treatment,” said device co-inventor Associate Professor Shaurya Prakash.

Prakash, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair Vish Subramaniam and an interdisciplinary team of Ohio State investigators recently published a study in Scientific Reports, which is the first of its kind to look at the ways electroceutical bandages kill bacteria around a wound.

A researcher prints a dressing prototype by silk-screening a silver-based ink on fabric.Components of electroceutical dressing prototypes were printed using a silver-based ink on silk fabric.

The dressing disrupts biofilm—a distinct antibiotic-resistant and bacteria-containing layer—that can form over wounds, often rending them chronic or non-healing.

“As in the case of Daisy, bacterial infections contribute to chronic and non-healing wounds,” said Prakash. “Electrochemical stimulations from the electronic bandage disrupt the communication of these bacteria and break their adhesion to the wound’s surface. The resulting removal of bacteria allows the wound to continue to heal properly.”

In addition to eradicating bacteria, the electroceutical bandage also could enhance skin’s natural electric currents to further promote healing.

“The skin surrounding a wound naturally generates an electric field and current around and into the injury,” said Subramaniam, device co-inventor. “Our past research and resulting commercially-available current-based bandage have shown that an externally-applied electric field can augment the healing process on superficial wounds for both animals and humans.”

The new device tested on Daisy builds on that research by using an electric current that allows it to be used on wounds up to one centimeter deep.

The College of Veterinary Medicine encounters chronic and non-healing wounds frequently and provided the perfect proving ground for the new technology.

“Chronic and non-healing wounds are a significant problem for veterinary patients,” said College of Veterinary Medicine Resident Sarah Salyer, DVM, who oversaw Daisy’s case. “Wound management requires a significant time commitment from both veterinarians and owners, and chronic wounds also tend to be both frustrating and costly.”

Next steps

Now that the mechanical engineering team has demonstrated the device’s design, prototype development and proof-of-concept operation, it’s ready to move into the next phase of development.

In the lab, researchers will aim to optimize the device’s design and operational characteristics, while establishing an understanding of its underlying mechanisms. The fundamental studies will be in collaboration with Daniel Wozniak and Paul Stoodley, faculty members in Ohio State’s Department of Microbiology.

Following the success with Daisy, the researchers hope to continue their collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine and evaluate the device’s use in additional patients. 

Subramaniam is confident the team will successfully bring the bandage to market.

“Our new printed electroceutical dressing represents the future of effective, easy-to-use medical interventions available to providers and consumers,” he said. “It highlights the myriad potential advancements at the intersection of engineering and medicine, for animals as well as humans.”

The research was funded by Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science L-Pilot Program, which is funded by a multiyear Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health. The research has also received support from Ohio State’s Infectious Disease Institute.

by Holly Henley, mechanical and aerospace engineering communications coordinator,