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12th February 2015

Plant goo or spray-on? Band-aids that do not look like band-aids at all

Joe Landolina looks like any typical 21-year old graduate: he’s young, inspirational, ambitious and wants to change the world. Except he’s already changed it. He’s been working on a life-saving technology since age 17 that could now become a reality.

Joe’s created a gel that can stop even severe bleeding under 20 seconds.

“Our goal is to get this in every ambulance, in every soldier’s belt, and in every mom’s purse,” Landolina told Bloomberg News in an interview. “And to be in every mom’s purse means having a product that is easy enough to be used by just about everybody.”

Point made. By making a simple and safe applicator it could be used by not only doctors or nurses, but policemen and of course those most likely to encounter wounds and scars and falls and topples day after day: mums and dads.

A chameleon?

It sort of works like one. The gel itself can take the shape and form of whatever is needed, whereever it’s needed. Though it’s a bit technical at first, the basic idea is that the mush between the cells in different parts of our body (scientists call it the extracellular matrix) has different characteristics. You might assume (correctly) that there are differences between the cells found in our kidneys, livers and brain. But the skin on our elbows, for example is also different from the skin on our knees or foreheads.

Joe’s plant-based gel will take up the shape of the matrix around it, mending the wound in a matter of seconds. As a bonus, the gel stops bleeding so fast that the body doesn’t have time to form thick scars.

Sort of like a mood ring

Vetigel, as Joe calls it, is not the only one taking wound care a step further from the basic bandage. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital teamed up with Harvard Medical School and came up with a ‘smart’ spray-on band aid. It’s a see-through layer that can change its colour as the wound gradually heals over time.

The colour-changing feature is linked to the amount of oxygen in the wound, a critical element in healing. But this is only step one. The team is hoping to take the technology further by making bandages that not only monitor oxygen levels, but also deliver necessary drugs automatically.

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Photo Credit: Nathal/Flickr