A healing hand

by Sara Monaghan

Move over smart phones…

A team of engineers and scientists from Melbourne’s RMIT have developed smart wound dressings with built-in fluorescent, nanosensors, able to alert doctors and patients when a wound is not healing as expected, without the need to remove a dressing.

The key ingredient in these smart dressing is Magnesium hydroxide, which is being hailed as a cheap and biocompatible material with antimicrobial potential.

Currently the only way to check the progress of wounds is by removing bandage dressings, which is both painful and risky, giving pathogens the chance to attack

said Dr Vi Khanh Truong, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at RMIT.

Laboratory tests have shown that these dressing are able to harness the power of magnesium hydroxide and its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.  They were non-toxic to human cells, while destroying emerging pathogens like drug-resistant golden staph and Candida auris.

The smart dressings we’ve developed not only fight bacteria and reduce inflammation to help promote healing, they also have glowing sensors to track and monitor for infection.

Being able to easily see if something is going wrong would reduce the need for frequent dressing changes and help to keep wounds better protected.

With further research, we hope our multifunctional dressings could become part of a new generation of low-cost, magnesium-based technologies for advanced wound care.

Dr Vi Khanh Truong

These nanosensors have an added benefit to monitoring wounds, the dressings glow brightly under a UV light when infection is evident.

The magnesium hydroxide nanosheets respond to changes in pH, which makes them ideal for use as sensors to track healing.

Healthy skin is naturally slightly acidic while infected wounds are moderately alkaline.

Under UV light, the nanosheets glow brightly in alkaline environments and fade in acidic conditions, indicating the different pH levels that mark the stages of wound healing.

With the global advanced wound dressing market worth an estimated US$6.9 billion, there has been little research focused on magnesium and its application onto surfaces such as dressings and bandages.   Equally effective and cheaper to produce than silver-based dressings, smart wound dressings could revolutionise wound care management, reducing the number of painful and risky re-dressings, keeping wounds better protected.

In a market ripe with technological innovation, Smart Wound dressings may just be the healing hand we need.


Fluorescent Magnesium Hydroxide Nanosheet Bandages with Tailored Properties for Biocompatible Antimicrobial Wound Dressings and pH Monitoring is published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c05908)

Image credits: RMIT University


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