Right now, the mask is in early stages of development. But Eileen Moss, a research scientist at UT Arlington and the project’s leader, tells Danger Room that the team’s already got a good sense of how it’ll look and work. Most importantly, she says, the mask would “give soldiers back the face they had before the injury.”
The mask will be comprised of two major layers. The top, a hard shell, will protect a patient’s face and also store electrical components. Underneath, a flexible polymer mask will fit around the contours of a patient’s face. It’ll be embedded with three more layers: An array of sensors to track the rate of healing, actuators to push up against the wound and hold the mask in place, and a network of micro-tubing and valves to pump therapeutics — whether antibiotics and pain killers or stem cells and growth factor — onto specific regions of the wound.
“Sensors would monitor the wound, and treatment inside the mask would be based on that data,” Moss says. “If healing is accelerated in one area of the burn, then the mask would know to supply different therapeutics to that region.”