The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) serves an important role in health and medical technology development. With its “invent the impossible” mindset, DARPA isn’t constricted by any boxes in the search for new solutions to critical problems. DARPA operates under the Department of Defense, so it leans toward backing solutions for military problems, but many of the technologies also have civilian applications. DARPA provided partial funding for Profusa’s work with injectable biosensors, for example. Paradromics is creating a Neural Input-Output Bus (NIOB), a massively parallel interface to provide real-time connections to 1 million neurons in the brain – again, funded in part by DARPA.

The University of California Santa Cruz, (UCSC) recently announced DARPA’s significant financial backing to develop a smart bandage to speed wound healing. UCSC engineers will work with UC Davis and Tufts University engineers and doctors. The joint effort will combine bioelectronic devices, machine learning, and regenerative medicine to build technology to control the physiological processes in healing wounds.

The project goal is to create an intelligent system that stimulates and monitors wounds while cutting the healing time in half. The bioelectronic bandage will control the wound’s electrochemical environment by delivering ions to the site as required. The bandage will also deliver growth factors to promote healing. Optical sensors in the bandage will monitor the healing processes. The AI component will control stimuli delivered to the wound based on input from the sensors. The team will also design a remote interface to monitor wound status and select therapeutic options.

The joint project combines multiple disciplines and involves scientists, engineers, and physicians who are leaders in their respective fields. As it develops, the smart bandage could have many immediate applications with veterans, firefighters, and people with chronic diabetic ulcers.