An advanced fabric developed for the beauty industry has the potential to revolutionise the use of bandages for the treatment of injuries. The new material, which has already been put to use in a beauty treatment researchers from Polytechnic University have coined 'facial switch', has won two awards in the US on its potential to be used to treat wounds. The team has applied for eight patents for a product that could be worth millions in the lucrative beauty industry because of the future applications of controlled-release fabrics. 'Controlled-release materials are at the forefront of textile development across the world,' team leader Jin Lian Hu said yesterday. 'While we are still a long way off these being used in medicine, the potential is definitely there.' Baohua Lin, a materials PhD student at PolyU, collected the Best Original Paper Award from the US-based Fiber Society, as well as picking up another award from the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. The fabric works by holding different nutrients in microscopic sacs, with the release determined by the heat of the body. Cosmetic facial masks when applied to the skin slowly release nutrients such as vitamins and aloe vera as the body's temperature changes. The ingredients can be used more intensively on the skin than those in conventional beauty treatments - and researchers believe the same principles can be applied to medicine. Another important ingredient in the fabric is chitosan, which is extracted from the shells of sea creatures such as crabs and shrimp and acts as an anti-bacterial. However, the fabric at this stage can only be used for short periods and must be kept moist with water. Because development of the fabric has taken five years so far to reach a commercial stage, it could be another five before it is of any practical use in medicine.