An injured human hand is a tough thing to treat, so when researchers designed a therapeutic healing glove to change the way we nurse hands back to health, doctors were thrilled.

“This is one of those ideas that seems simple in nature. Wound dressings, gauze, they need to be rethought,” research scientist Ryan Landrith tells Inverse. “When I mention this idea to nurses they always get excited because it’s this traditional dressing that doesn’t stick to the wound in any way.”

Landrith, based at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Dr. Christopher Allan of the University of Washington and Muthu Wijesundara at the UT Research Institute have been awarded $117,959 from the University of Washington Coulter Translational Research Partnership for development of their Bioengineered Smart-Glove for Regenerative Healing of Extremity Trauma. Call it the REHEAL Glove for short.

Their fix is a flexible polymeric glove wound dressing. Besides allowing for negative pressure wound therapy, the glove can deliver therapeutics and control the environment around the wound for ideal healing conditions. It can wash a wound, remove fluids, and administer topical gels and creams. It never sticks to the wounded area, so there’s no painful removal process, and perhaps most uniquely, it allows for the hand to be mobile during recovery in a way traditional bandages restrict, promoting the rehabilitation process.

Just keeping the dressing from touching the wound would be a boon to patients who’ve suffered burns.

“Burn wounds are incredibly painful and so is the hand dressing,” Landrith says. “It just crushes the injuries. Even being able to let the wound rest, applying a vacuum, that alone is valuable.”

“We are providing a tool that isn’t out there right now,” Wijesundara says. “But this will take some time. We need to see what we can do with clinical trials and that’s a year or so down the road. But when it’s done it will change wound care on the hand significantly.”

Photos via UT Arlington