Our Biotechnology Research Program: Improving the Bandage and Beyond

By Gabriela Calhoun

Male scientist puts blue liquid in test tube with red liquid in it

For our biotechnology research program this year, we are diving deeper into the realm of how to improve on not only the design of the bandage but also what is incorporated into the final product. Over the past two years, we have been working on developing a hydrocolloid bandage infused with essential oils and incorporating additive manufacturing to combine biology and medicine with engineering.

We have discovered that goldenseal and grapefruit seed extract are among the top antibacterial agents, as well as not damaging the healing process of the skin. We also determined the optimized hydrocolloid mixture to make sure it is stabilized out of the extruder head. We are attempting to incorporate a layering system into the bandage to add a pH indicator to show signs of infection.

We are also doing testing on the essential oils combined and separate to see their effectiveness against Staphylococcus carnosus and Streptococcus aureus. We have also completed literature research on which other bacteria caused in-wound infections, their pH, what exotoxins they release and at what time they are released.

Work on the robotic hand is being completed now as we are redesigning key components to the palm and finger to allow for more mobility as well as better sustainability. We are also working on tracking muscle contractions using electrodes to attempt to see the differences in contraction for the movement of the hand. We are using the program Simulink in order to not only code but to be able to look back after the code is run and see if there are any functions that can be optimized throughout the hand. The program also allows for system functions to make the process of connecting the data retrieved with muscle contractions to movement.

We are also working on the attachment to the upper limb. Issues that are typically had with prosthetics include real limb pain from their prosthetic devices. We are attempting to work on creating a more comfortable system in order to provide relief from the real limb pain to allow the user to wear the prosthetic for longer periods of time.

Finally, we are working on developing a six-legged, self-stabilizing robot. This one is a current favorite throughout our research program as we are getting to not only research the scientific side, but also the engineering side. We are learning a new coding language and stress and strain models in the design of the hexapod.

The main goal of our program is always improvement and iteration. We not only wish to learn something but to expand on our knowledge and incorporate it into our projects. We expanded from a simple hydrocolloid bandage to a 3D printed, hydrocolloid bandage with essential oils that promote wound healing and cell regeneration, as well as pH indicators and new printer techniques. For the hand, we are looking to improve the design to help create fluid motion as well as help the life of the hand. Finally, we are looking to expand our project for the Hexapod into the realm of gyroscopes. The benefits of being part of this program are that you are always learning, you are working on real-world problems and most of the work is hands-on. There is always something to tackle in the research program and every day is something different.

More about Gabriela:

Gabriela Calhoun is a junior honors biomedical engineering student leading the 3D Printing/Biotechnology sector of RDP. She is also the vice president of Honors STEMists. She has been leading the research program for the past 3 years.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.