They develop a bioelectronic patch to heal chronic wounds

A research team from the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH), in the United States, has developed a bioelectronic adhesive to control wounds with chronic infection. It is a wireless and elastic system that promotes healing through electrical stimulation and pharmacological treatment at the site of injury. The device has been shown to accelerate healing in diabetic mice.

“This patch allows you to monitor the metabolic and inflammatory state of the wound in real time for a combined closed-loop therapy in the treatment of chronic wounds”, Wei Gao, biomedical engineer at CALTECH and co-author of the article, explains to SINC.

We hope this technology can speed up healing and reduce the financial burden on patients.

Wei Gao, biomedical engineer at CIT

Chronic wounds that do not heal affect more than 6.7 million people in the United States alone, which means a medical expense of more than 25,000 million dollars (about 23,300 million euros) for those suffering from diabetic ulcers, burns, surgical complications and other conditions.

The electronic patch in a glove

The researchers hope that this treatment will be more effective and cheaper than current ones. / Wei Gao/California Institute of Technology

Gao tells SINC that “the price of the device could be around 50 dollars (46 euros)”. The tool would also “consist of a reusable electronics part and a disposable sensor patch, the latter valued at a few dollars”. The researcher hopes that “this technology can substantially accelerate the healing process of chronic wounds and reduce the financial burden on patients.”

The system can be easily applied to human skin using a medical adhesive. It’s as easy as putting a bandage on a wound.

Wei Gao

On the other hand, current treatments to heal chronic wounds can be invasive. Additionally, bacterial infections are common, preventing proper healing and sometimes leading to serious illness and even death. The system designed by CALTECH “can be easily applied to human skin using a medical adhesive. It’s as easy as applying a bandage to an open wound,” describes Gao to SINC.

Patch applied to the skin

The device is an adhesive that is simple to apply. / Wei Gao/California Institute of Technology

Previous studies have shown that electrical stimulation accelerates wound healing, but the necessary equipment can be bulky and impractical. The latest advances in bioelectronics have also allowed the use of flexible and portable biosensors to monitor wounds with physiological markers such as pH, temperature or glucose. However, researchers wondered whether these devices could be effective in practice without further testing.

The patch features a flexible printed circuit board to monitor healing and the occurrence of infection.

The patch developed by CALTEC, with a flexible printed circuit board, can monitor several physiological biomarkers of healing progress and the occurrence of infections, in addition to controlling the release of drugs through an electroactive hydrogel and applying tension to promote healing at the site from the wound.

The sticker applied on a mouse

The patch was tested in mice with diabetes. / Wei Gao/California Institute of Technology

“This technology can be applied to a wide range of non-healing chronic wounds,” the engineer told SINC. However, there are other possible uses as well: “It could be used as a wearable sensor on the skin to analyze body fluids like sweat or interstitial fluid. The bioelectronic system can also be useful for personalized health management”.

CALTECH scientists installed the device in freely moving diabetic mice to accelerate wound healing for 14 days. The results of the investigation demonstrated its great capacity for adhesion, elasticity and flexibility.

“We envision that the integrated, customized wearable patch could serve as a more effective, fully controllable, and easy-to-deploy platform for monitoring and personalized treatment of chronic wounds with minimal side effects,” the researchers conclude.


Gao, W. et al. “A wireless extensible bioelectronic system for multiplexed monitoring and combined treatment of infected chronic wounds”. advances in science (March 2023)

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