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Optical Design & Engineering

Making Her SMART Marks

Photonics for a Better World

8 August 2018, SPIE Newsroom. DOI:

Winning the inaugural $75,000 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship in Problem-Driven Biophotonics and Biomedical Optics has had its fair share of notable impact on Haley Marks' life and profession. The fellowship, which supports and provides opportunities for translating new technologies to clinical practice for improving human health was awarded for the first time in January 2018 at SPIE Photonics West.

2018 Hillenkamp Fellow Haley Marks
2018 Hillenkamp Fellow Haley Marks with the first prototypes of the oxygen-sensing hydrogels, developed in collaboration with BU.

"I actually found out that I won in December, just as I was getting ready to fly home for the holidays," she recalls. "I was packing when I got a call from Rox Anderson, the director of our center, the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, congratulating me, and I got all flustered. I swung by the lab on the way to the airport to celebrate the news with my mentor, Dr. Conor Evans, and our colleagues, and ended up missing my plane!"

The missed flight has been more than worth it for Marks, who has been at the Wellman Center since February 2017, working with Evans and his team on an oxygen-sensing bandage known as a SMART (sensing, monitoring, and release of therapeutics) bandage. "We've been working on the oxygen-sensing element from a chemistry standpoint," she explains. "This fellowship, which supports our interdisciplinary, translational work, has given us the opportunity to take new, creative approaches on the therapeutic aspect of the bandage." Previously, their oxygen sensing bandages had been created for intact skin - for conditions such as grafts, bacterial infections, chronic sun exposure, for example - utilizing different formulations of a paintable, or sprayable New SkinTM-based liquid bandage: "We spent a lot of time in the arts and crafts store trying to adapt airbrushing techniques."

The 'SMART' bandage phosphorescence emission is also visible by eye under UV light
The 'SMART' bandage phosphorescence emission is also visible by eye under UV light

"The SPIE-Hillenkamp Fellowship means that I've been able to work on new, biocompatible materials that are open-wound friendly," says Marks. "You can place them over severe injuries like a gouge or laceration, for example, or use them in a situation where you have a wound that's oozing exudate. These new versions of the bandage are able to soak up the exudate the way a traditional bandage material would, while also releasing therapeutics to treat the wound, and providing oxygen-sensing feedback."

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