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Scientists are Creating a “Second Skin”

Scientific advancements continue to reach new heights as a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Olivo Labs recently created a new material that could help to protect and restore your skin. This new development is being called “Second Skin.”

The idea behind second skin came when Dr. R. Rox Anderson, a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, posed the question: “What if there was a way to restore the elastic nature of skin?” As human beings age, their skin loses its elasticity – this can be due to sun exposure, harsh weather, as well as various personal care habits. This loss of elasticity causes skin to form wrinkles and become saggy. Dr. Anderson’s solution to this problem was to create a polymer that resembled skin and could help restore skin’s elasticity.

The end-product of Dr. Anderson’s work was second skin – a “silicone-based polymer” that is created by forming a long chain of silicone and oxygen atoms. Silicone polymers, formally known as polysiloxanes, have proved to be useful in a variety of scenarios due to their characteristic properties. These polymers are known for being transparent, flexible, elastic, and non-toxic. Additionally, silicone polymers have high temperature

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Doctors and scientists are working on creating a second, invisible, layer of skin that can greatly improve human health. Photo Courtesy of Melanie Gonick/MIT

stability, can be used to create watertight seals, and are resistant to ultraviolet light. These properties altogether created a skin-like product that would work to rejuvenate skin, and still allow the skin it is applied to, to breathe.

 

Currently, this product is used for cosmetic improvements. The silicone polymer is applied to a particular area on a person’s body, such as under the eyes. The transparency of the polymer allows this layer to go unnoticed as it applies a compressive force – which helps tighten the skin – to the area it covers. Additionally, the watertight seal the polymer creates can reduce water loss from dry skin.

In the future, this silicone polymer will be further developed for use in the medical field. The skin could help in administering medicine to treat skin conditions such as eczema.

By: Emma Hammer’18, Guest Writer

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