Swansea is at the forefront of new ‘smart bandage’ technology, a development being driven by south west Wales’s new focus as a centre for both life sciences and 5G digital innovation.
Led by Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science (ILS), the new bandages, which can detect how a wound is healing and send messages back to doctors, could be trialled within the next 12 months.
The smart bandage development marries a number of Welsh medical and science sector innovators together: Experts in nanotechnology would develop the tiny sensors, while 3D printers at ILS, the research and innovation arm of Swansea University Medical School, would be used to produce the bandages, bringing down the cost. Experts at the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, Cardiff University’s £4m research hub devoted to tackling the ’silent epidemic’ of wound care, are also involved in the project.
Clinical trials would be undertaken through the Arch wellness and innovation project in south west Wales, an ambitious new initiative for collaborative healthcare in the region. Plans include a Wellness and Life Science Village in Llanelli; an Institute of Life Science and Talent Bank at Morriston Hospital, and a Health and Wellbeing Academy at Swansea University.
The smart bandage development will also capitalise on the recent £1.3bn Swansea Bay City deal, which aims to make the region a 5G test hub for digital innovation. The bandages use real-time 5G technology to monitor what treatment is needed and also keep track of a patient’s activity levels.
Professor Marc Clement, chairman of the Institute of Life Science (ILS), told the BBC: “5G is an opportunity to produce resilient, robust bandwidth that is always there for the purpose of healthcare.
“That intelligent dressing uses nanotechnology to sense the state of that wound at any one specific time. It would connect that wound to a 5G infrastructure and that infrastructure through your telephone will also know things about you – where you are, how active you are at any one time.
“You combine all of that intelligence so the clinician knows the performance of the specific wound at any specific time and can then tailor the treatment protocol to the individual and wound in question. What the future holds is a world where there’s the ability to vary the treatment to the individual, the lifestyle and the pattern of life.”
He added: “What we’re creating within this city deal, is an ecosystem that can prove concept, prove business, manufacture locally and take innovation to a global marketplace.”