Wednesday 21 February 2018

Researchers create 'second skin' that cures signs of ageing

A volunteer demonstrates how the ‘second skin’ polymer works. Photo: Olivo Labs/LLC/PA Wire
A volunteer demonstrates how the ‘second skin’ polymer works. Photo: Olivo Labs/LLC/PA Wire

Sarah Knapton

Skin slackening, deep facial lines and dark circles need no longer be an inevitable part of the ageing process after scientists invented a wearable 'second skin' that restores a youthful complexion.

The material is applied to the face daily like a cream and is then activated with a catalyst gel to give an immediate tightening effect that mimics the elastic properties of healthy young skin, banishing eye bags and smoothing out wrinkles.

Although it is peeled off at night, the layer improves skin hydration during the day, working better than top-of-the-range moisturisers, so it is likely to have long-term benefits.

The researchers are also hoping it could be used to deliver drugs to help treat skin conditions such as eczema, as well as providing protection from UV rays.


Scientists at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, biotech firm Living Proof and Olivo Labs have been working on the 'skin' for 10 years and published their results in the journal 'Nature Materials' yesterday.

In tests with human subjects, they showed the 'second skin' was able to reshape eye bags and smooth out wrinkles while boosting moisture to prevent lines forming in the first place.

"It's an invisible layer that can provide a barrier, provide cosmetic improvement and potentially deliver a drug locally to the area that's being treated," said Dr Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering.

As skin ages it becomes less firm and elastic, problems that are exacerbated by sun exposure, which impairs skin's ability to protect against extreme temperatures, toxins, microorganisms, radiation and injury.

A decade ago, the team set out to develop a protective coating that could restore the properties of healthy skin for medical and cosmetic purposes.

"We started thinking about how we might be able to control the properties of skin by coating it with polymers that would impart beneficial effects," said Dr Anderson.

The researchers created a library of more than 100 possible polymers, all of which contained a chemical structure known as siloxane, a chain of alternating atoms of silicon and oxygen. These polymers can be made into a material that acts like skin, able to bend and stretch in multiple dimensions.

In tests, the material easily returned to its original state after being stretched more than 250pc - natural skin can only be elongated by about 180pc.

The material - called XPL - is delivered in a two-step process. First, polysiloxane components are applied to the skin, followed by a platinum catalyst that induces the polymer to form a strong film that remains on the skin for up to 24 hours.

Both layers are applied as creams or ointments, and once spread onto the skin, XPL becomes essentially invisible.

"We are extremely excited about the opportunities that are presented as a result of this work and look forward to further developing these materials to better treat patients who suffer from a variety of skin conditions," said MIT Institute Professor Dr Robert Langer.

Irish Independent

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