Bubbles and ultrasound can make bandages stickier

"The ultrasound induces many microbubbles, which transiently push the adhesives into the skin for stronger bioadhesion," says Outi Supponen. (Credit: Getty Images)

Researchers have discovered they can use ultrasound waves and bubbles to control the stickiness of medical adhesive bandages.

The breakthrough could lead to new advances in medical adhesives, especially in cases where they are difficult to apply such as on wet skin.

“Bandages, glues, and stickers are common bioadhesives that are used at home or in clinics. However, they don’t usually adhere well on wet skin. It’s also challenging to control where they are applied and the strength and duration of the formed adhesion,” says lead author Jianyu Li, professor at McGill University.

A metal tube hovers over a clear square of adhesive material on the back of a person's hand.
Adhesive hydrogel applied on skin under ultrasound probe. (Credit: Ran Huo and Jianyu Li)

“We were surprised to find that by simply playing around with ultrasonic intensity, we can control very precisely the stickiness of adhesive bandages on many tissues,” says lead author Zhenwei Ma, a former student of Li’s and now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.

The researchers experimented with ultrasound induced microbubbles to make adhesives stickier.

“The ultrasound induces many microbubbles, which transiently push the adhesives into the skin for stronger bioadhesion,” says Outi Supponen, a professor at the Institute of Fluid Dynamics at ETH Zurich. “We can even use theoretical modeling to estimate exactly where the adhesion will happen.”

The study, published in the journal Science, shows that the adhesives are compatible with living tissue in rats. The adhesives can also potentially be used to deliver drugs through the skin.

“This paradigm-shifting technology will have great implications in many branches of medicine,” says Zu-hua Gao, professor at the University of British Columbia. “We’re very excited to translate this technology for applications in clinics for tissue repair, cancer therapy, and precision medicine.”

“By merging mechanics, materials and biomedical engineering, we envision the broad impact of our bioadhesive technology in wearable devices, wound management, and regenerative medicine,” says Li, who is also a Canada Research Chair in Biomaterials and Musculoskeletal Health.

Source: McGill University