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November 19,


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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

'Smart bandage' diagnoses infection


BANDAGE WITH A BRAIN--Benjamin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry, displays the germ sensor that will be used to create the "smart bandage." When certain types of bacteria are detected, the bandage changes color and alerts the wearer that infection is possible. Such technology soon could be incorporated into cutting boards that detect bacteria in food and "smart packaging" that can determine if the contents are safe.

Researchers at the University have taken the first major step toward developing a bandage that will change color depending on the type of bacteria present in a wound. Providing an instant diagnosis, the technology could potentially determine whether a wound requires special care and suggest the type of antibiotic for treatment.

Benjamin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry, and Philippe Fauchet, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, have devised a sand-grain sized wafer that can differentiate between two classes of bacteria.

The "smart bandage," as it's been nicknamed, zeroes in on a specific type of molecule, changing colors if that bacteria is detected. Miller plans to create an array of dozens of different bacterial sensors that can be mounted into a flexible bandage. Once the bandage changes colors, a bandage-reader could then be used to scan a cut and determine in seconds what type of infection is present.

As reported in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the accomplishment indicates that it's possible to accurately identify bacteria with a silicon sensor, spurring Miller's team to expand the research to several other types of bacteria, including salmonella, listeria, and enteropathogenic E. coli, all of which can cause serious disease in humans.

The technology Miller is pursuing may go well beyond the "smart bandage" and include "smart food packaging," that could detect contaminated foods or liquid. "We may even see this technology being used as an early warning in the case of biowarfare," he says.

"We've shown that we can detect and identify a single, distinct kind of bacteria," says Miller. "Now that we have that out of the way, we know it can be done. Finding the molecules to detect other bacteria will be much easier."

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