Military Project Invests in "Biomask" To Heal Soldiers—and Civilians'—Facial Burns

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 30 2012 3:11 PM

Military Project Invests in "Biomask" To Heal Soldiers—and Civilians'—Facial Burns

Surgeons, prepare to step aside. A team of engineers and experts is developing masks that may help heal soldiers’ facial burns, according to Wired.

The Biomask has a hard layer with all electric aspects, which store treatment data in real time for doctors’ use, and a flexible layer with sensors and treatments. The sensors detect how the wound is healing and help medical professionals determine the appropriate regimen for the patient. Treatments would include antibiotics, stem cells, pain medications, and remedies that regulate the growth of tissue, says Wired’s Katie Drummond. The mask would be worn for multiple months to track and alter use of medication during the healing period.

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The Biomask project is a joint effort of University of Texas-Arlington engineers, Northwestern University, and the Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, according to a UT Arlington press release. It’s still in the (very) early stages of development, but UT-Arlington optimistically estimates that the Biomask could be deployed as soon as 2017.

The U.S. military has a long history of trying to develop new medical techniques to heal soldiers injured on the battlefield. In 2008, the Department of Defense founded the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which works with various American research universities. For example, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh developed a way to regrow muscles using pig cells.

And it is probable that the mask could eventually be used to heal non-military burn victims, too, just as prosthetics and emergency response tools have transitioned from helping injured soldiers to being used in civilian hospitals.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Caitlin Mac Neal is an intern for Future Tense.