If researchers at the University of Illinois have their say, bandages are about to get a whole lot cooler.
A team of engineers has created a bandage that in just one week not only encourages new blood vessel growth but helps guide that growth as well.
"The ability to pattern functional blood vessels at this scale in living tissue has not been demonstrated before," co-principal investigator and electrical and computing engineering professor Rashid Bashir says in a school news release.
The team, whose findings will grace the cover of a January 2012 issue of the journal Advanced Materials, calls the bandage a "microvascular stamp." Unlike similar bandages developed to help spur blood vessel growth, the stamp contains living cells that encourage damaged tissue to grow according to the stamp's pattern.
At nearly a centimeter across, the stamp is made of porous material that enables small molecules to sneak through in addition to the larger growth factors. The team tested it on a chicken embryo; when they removed it from the surface a week later, a network of new blood vessels appeared in the pattern of the stamp's channels.
Future applications could include not only healing wounds, but also redirecting blood vessels to grow around blocked arteries, and even improving the delivery of cancer drugs by repairing blood vessels that feed cancerous cells.