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A new device being developed at Montana Tech University would allow bandages with antibiotics and other medications to be sprayed onto a wound. Getty Images
  • Scientists at Montana Technological University are working on new technology that allows medical professionals to “spray” bandages with medication onto wounds.
  • A similar device has been developed by Israeli scientists and is in use in hospitals and burn clinics in Israel and Europe.
  • Wound care technology is expected to be a $35 billion industry by 2025.

Suppose you took a pretty serious tumble while you were out riding your Harley and you scraped the skin off your arm.

Your wound might require antibiotics and a series of painful dressing changes.

Fast-forward a bit down the road. There’s a new technology that could help eliminate some of your discomfort.

It’s a device that allows you to “spray-paint” a bandage loaded with antibiotics or other medications directly onto your wound.

A team of researchers at Montana Technological University has developed an instrument they call the electrostatic and air driven device (EStAD).

The researchers describe their work in a new report published today in the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B.

“What we’ve developed is a device that is completely portable, and it uses a technology called electrospinning,” Lane Huston, a mechanical engineering grad student at Montana Tech, told Healthline.

Electrospinning is a method of producing fibers by using high voltage electricity.

“Electrospinning makes these artificial spiderwebs, tiny little fibers that are smaller than a hair. When they spin out, they look like spray paint,” Jack Skinner, PhD, PE, an associate professor and mechanical engineering department head at Montana Tech, told Healthline.

“We can mix antibiotics straight into that polymer before we turn it into fibers,” explained Jessica Andriolo, PhD, a biomedical engineer at Montana Tech. “The fibers are biocompatible. When they come into contact with a change in temperature, they melt and release those antibiotics.”

The researchers believe doctors and first responders could use this device, especially those in rural areas who can’t transport a person to a hospital right away.

“As an emergency medicine physician, this intriguing technology offers a number of possibilities for wound care and drug delivery,” said Dr. Hubert Wong, chair of emergency medicine at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California.

“One potential application would be as a wound dressing for burn patients, allowing application of a conforming protective layer with medication,” Wong told Healthline. “It could form a substrate to promote skin regeneration and healing. It might offer less scarring and faster healing.”

“A handheld electrospinning device is an interesting and novel concept. There is potential practicality in delivering ‘spray on’ antibiotics for in-home burn or wound care,” added Dr. Nick Sawyer, MBA, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Davis Department of Emergency Medicine.

But Sawyer warns that new doesn’t always mean better.

“Patients should be aware that ‘latest and greatest’ medical technologies may not be superior to the current standard of care, may be cost prohibitive, and at times may put them at risk for potential harm,” he told Healthline.

He notes that earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released approximately 6 million medical device–related injury reports dating back to 1999. This data hadn’t been previously disclosed in the agency’s public reporting database.

Researchers in Israel have developed a similar portable electrospinning device called “SpinCare.” It’s manufactured by Nanomedic Technologies Ltd.

The device can spray a fiber “bandage” loaded with medication onto a wound. The company says the bandage acts like a second skin and stays on until the wound is healed, then peels off.

Gary Sagiv, PhD, vice president of marketing and sales for Nanomedic Technologies, told Healthline the company has completed the initial phase of testing and safety checks.

He says the device is being used in hospitals and burn clinics in Israel and Europe. The group is applying for approval in other countries around the globe.

“We’re submitting to the FDA now. We believe it could get approval by mid-2020,” he added.

The Montana Tech researchers say their device has one important difference.

“What makes our device unique from others is we don’t attach an electrode to the patient,” Huston said. “Our device completely encases the electric field and shields the operator and the patient from any shock hazard.”

There could be lots more players on the wound care field, too.

The race seems to be on to find new ways to treat old problems when it comes to scrapes and cuts.

Fueled by an uptick in chronic wounds, Transparency Market Research predicts the global wound healing market could top $35 billion by 2025.

The Montana team is in what they call the “tech transfer phase” now. The researchers believe the future is bright for their device.

“We’ll be able to make electronics function with materials that are relatively inexpensive for first responders and soldiers,” Skinner said. “You could get this into the hands of people in developing countries and they could treat wounds in a way they can’t do now.”

“I think there could be a lot of applications in surgery. The possibilities are kind of exciting,” he added.