Sometimes good things come to those who wait.
Two faculty advisers - Engineering Professors Panos Shiakolas and Pranesh Aswath - supervised a student team, led by Letia Blanco, about five years ago in designing and building a smart bandage, which allowed more efficient healing of wounds and delivery of multiple drugs on their own time schedules to the wound, she wasn't sure what would become of it.
That design team now has a patent on their invention, which is titled, Controlled Release Nanoparticulate Matter Delivery System.
"Our goal was to protect the wound and increase infection control," said Blanco, who is a lead engineer at Raytheon, after graduating from UTA with a degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. "Raytheon teamed up with UTA to secure the patent. It's very exciting."
Blanco led the team that senior year in 2010. Also on the team were: Christopher Alberts, Kyle Godfrey, Andrew Patin and Chris Grace, all Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering graduates; Panos Shiakolas, UTA associate professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department; and Pranesh Aswath, UTA professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department and vice provost for academic planning and policy.
In addition, the team presented its findings through a refereed conference paper at the 2012 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Winter Annual Meeting conference and at a 2011 Biomedical Engineering Conference.
More than half a million people in the United States seek medical treatment for burns every year and 40,000 of those have injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.
In addition to the millions who suffer from burns, Blanco said the project appealed to the team because it had the ability to help soldiers in the field.
"Many times, soldiers' dressings would have to be applied over and over again because health care providers would have to apply medicine," Blanco said. "Every time they had to do that, they had to undress and redress the wound. That process of changing the dressings was more dangerous than the technology we designed and developed."
The device the student team designed increases the amount of time between dressing changes in two ways. First, a hydrogel is used to control the wound's temperature and that enables better, controlled drug delivery. Second, the device consists of many separate modules, which are connected by a flexible plastic allowing the bandage to comfortably conform to any wound. A lateral wiring scheme allows for bandage size customizing. Removable medicine trays allow used hydrogel to be removed and the electrical components sterilized, then recharged and reused.
The team showed in its research that the device could be a profitable product that would reduce infections, ease patient discomfort, shorten hospital stays, lower medical costs and save lives.
Just for the record, this is Patent No. 9,522,241 and was issued on Dec. 20, 2016. The entry also won the only award given out in 2011for the prestigious American Society for Materials International Undergraduate Design Competition. In addition, the students presented the findings at a 2012 ASME conference.
Aswath, one of the senior design project's advisers, said the project shows the value of undergraduate research.
"This is just one example of outstanding work done by our undergraduate students who can compete at the highest level and win competitions and get patents awarded," Aswath said. "They are all now successful in their careers and we are still in touch with the lead of the team, Letia Blanco, who is a rising star at Raytheon."
Aswath said the patent embodies UTA's theme of health and the human condition within the University's Strategic Plan Bold Solutions | Global Impact.
Shiakolas said the University is working with Blanco and Raytheon to look at future steps of commercializing the product.
About The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 "highest research activity" institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000, UTA is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. Guided by its Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research and education within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2017 Best for Vets list.