Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, or EMPA, are working on a drug-releasing smart fabric that can determine when and where the drugs need to be applied. The fibers themselves are equipped with the drugs so they are applied precisely and accurately. The fabric can release the drugs in response to chemical signals produced by the wearer or via an outside stimuli, such as light or pressure. In addition to active drug delivery and healing, since the fabric allows for substances to penetrate the fibers in both directions, the textile could be used in preventative treatment, such as blood sugar monitoring of babies.
The fibers themselves are produced using various techniques depending on the type of fiber needed. For delicate, light fibers they use a process known as electrospinning. For heartier fibers, such as those used in protective clothing, the researchers melt the ingredients and then draw out the individual fibers. Each fiber is composed of several layers and components with the finished textile containing drugs such as antibiotics or painkillers integrated into the individual fibers.
From the EMPA article: "In order to ensure that the dosage of the active substances is precisely as needed, the researchers have devised a tricky control mechanism: Some polymers are degradable by the body under certain conditions. This property can be used specifically. Rossi: «In response to a stimulus from the body, the fibers should release their drugs into the environment at a calculated degradation rate.» Such an irritation can be the altered pH value of a skin wound, which indicates that the tissue damage must be treated. As a so-called self-care material, the fibers in the form of a plaster or garment thus support the diagnosis and treatment of diseases."
Read more about drug-releasing smart fabric at EMPA.