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Prestigious NSF grant awarded to FIU engineering professor for 'smart' bandages

Prestigious NSF grant awarded to FIU engineering professor for 'smart' bandages

November 4, 2021 at 11:00am

By Adrianne Sylvester

In the future, a “smart” bandage being developed at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing could remotely send real-time information directly to physicians to advise them how well a patient’s chronic wound is healing.

That’s the hope of the project’s mastermind, Satheesh Bojja Venkatakrishnan, a research assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Venkatakrishnan’s work in the development of a wireless, adhesive bandage to monitor wounds has led to a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) grant, also known as a “mini CAREER” award. The highly competitive, $175,000 grant is awarded annually to support the promising research of a small number of principal investigators who are early career academicians.

“It’s very gratifying to receive this award to further my research because millions of Americans suffer from chronic skin wounds ― from burns, diabetes, ulcers and other skin conditions,” Venkatakrishnan said. “These wounds often result in infection and require frequent doctor visits. Treating them can be a painstaking process and quite expensive.” 

Currently, physicians rely primarily on in-person visualization of wounds to determine if healing is on track. The foundation of Venkatakrishnan’s smart bandage uses a sensor to evaluate wounds by assessing the percentage of water in the skin, among other metrics such as oxygenation and temperature.

“Healthy skin is about 55 percent water,” he said. “If you have an ulcer, a burn or another chronic skin condition, the percentage of water drops drastically. If the wound is healing well, the water percentage goes up.”

The bandage’s wireless technology allows data to be sent to physicians from a patient’s home or office, rural location or even a remote vacation spot.

Venkatakrishnan is collaborating with clinicians at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and mentor Sharan Ramaswamy, associate professor of biomedical engineering.

“The NSF award is a testament to his talent and capabilities,” Ramaswamy said. “He is very driven and motivated in his work and the fact that this will accelerate and facilitate better healing will benefit many people.”

In the next year or so, Venkatakrishnan plans to have a prototype in the testing stage. The technology, he hopes, can eventually be expanded to detect other biomarkers that will lead to improved medical care.