At the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) researchers are working on integrating therapeutic drugs into textiles that can release them into the skin as needed. The researchers envision pain medication to be administered as soon as the body severely during a sports injury, or an antibiotic can be released as soon as a wound forms on the skin.
The researchers are using biodegradable polymers and making them release the drugs that are embedded within them in a controlled manner. Polymers can be made to break up by the sweat of the skin, for example, or liquid blood can be the trigger for the polymers to release a medication. Each application will have to require a different formulation of how the drug is embedded and what will cause it to be released.
One other issue the researchers are working on is relying on different manufacturing techniques to produce different products and making their technology compatible with each of them. Polymers can be drawn, electrospun, or molded, and the results are very different, which means that a heavy jacket will be made very differently than a pair of smart underwear. “The targeted use of the fiber determines which manufacturing process is best,” said René Rossi, the project coordinator. “The properties of these new materials are currently being investigated with test substances”.