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The invention of a “secondary skin”, a creamy epidermis to spread on the face in the morning and remove in the evening before going to bed. In fact, it is a sort of veil capable of hiding skin spots, wrinkles and even bags under the eyes, but also of making webs of capillaries on the legs disappear or of giving support to the relaxed skin on the inside of the thigh or arm. It may also contain the underbelly in the future, says Harvard researcher Daniel Anderson. And for aesthetic purposes, the ingenious invention combines possible therapeutic applications: for researchers it should serve above all as sun protection, a vehicle for administering drugs, treating wounds or burns and making continuous analysis of patients’ conditions.
More than a cosmetic
Once spread, the cream creates a new, elastic, resistant skin without imperfections. And at night you can “peel” it off, like a mask, without difficulty. Just rub it in a corner and when it comes off take it with two fingers and flip it through. Or use a specific solvent. Cosmetics manufacturers have always claimed that creams and lotions reduce wrinkles and erase the signs of old age, but this is not a cosmetic in the traditional sense of the word. For various reasons: first of all, it does not just change the color of the skin, but it changes its behavior, restoring the elasticity of the young skin. It then retains the moisture in the skin, preventing it from evaporating, and in this way acts as a moisturizer.
But what if it rains, if you sweat, if you want to go to the pool? You might wonder. Well, tests have shown that it does not melt and does not deteriorate.
The cosmetic field is only the first step. Not surprisingly, the development of the new product is not due to a cosmetics company or even to an aesthetic doctor. This artificial skin is not yet on sale and for now it has not even been approved by the FDA (the body that controls and approves foods and drugs in the United States), but the substances it is made of appear in the list of those most commonly used and considered harmless, so there will probably be no need for any authorization for placing on the market.
In addition, the 170 individuals on whom it was tested in a pilot study reported neither irritation nor allergic reactions. Above all, this “skin” is the result of 10 years of research by two prestigious American universities, Harvard and MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. And that’s not all. The work is signed by researchers with authoritative scientific pedigrees, headed by the most cited biomedical engineer in history, Bob Langer: last year the Queen Elizabeth Award committee for engineering estimated that with its discoveries has improved the lives of 2 billion people.
In short, in the minds of scholars the new cream that turns into a mask is a starting platform for the development of multiple uses.
Among the possible uses the most plausible are:
Sun protection cream
According to researchers, basic components of artificial skin could be layered with other substances that block the sun’s UV rays. This would prevent them from damaging the tissues during prolonged exposure: the skin would in fact resist water and sweat, and the slow release would guarantee coverage for some work or sports activities.
In severe burns, in which there is very little residual skin, the artificial epidermis is precious: it not only protects the exposed area, but also promotes the regrowth of natural skin instead of allowing scars to form. Studies in this regard began in the early 1970s and the father of this type of research is the American surgeon John Burke, who argued for the need to replace burned skin with healthy skin. And so we began to study the production of an artificial skin that protected against infections without requiring the use of anti-rejection drugs. The advantage of langer’s “second skin” is that it could also be impregnated with drugs and release growth factors to accelerate regeneration.
It is difficult to evaluate the quality of the results because the images available are very low resolution and so far very little has been shared by the two small firms who are working on this project. We will soon discover, however, if this will be the skin of our future.
Gemma Heather Taylor is a 28-year-old junior programmer who enjoys eating, travelling and yoga. She is a thinker and creative, but can also be quite skeptic to many subjects that today we give for granted. This led to Gemma constantly having to dig through piles of books to find answers to her wonders.