MIT scientists create 'second skin' polymer

Material could be used to treat skin conditions

Melanie Gonick/MIT

Scientists at MIT have created a novel material that could be used to temporarily tighten the skin and smooth wrinkles. The team believes the development could also be used to deliver drugs for skin conditions such as eczema and other forms of dermatitis.

The silicone-based polymer can be applied to the skin in a thin coating and is said to mimic the elastic properties of healthy, youthful skin. In tests, researchers found that it could be used to reshape the face, masking eye bags. The polymer also enhances skin hydration and the team believed that it could be adapted to provide UV protection.

Daniel Anderson, Associate Professor at MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, explained: “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.”

The research involved creating a library of more than 100 possible materials, all containing siloxane – a chain of alternating silicon and oxygen – to find the best match.

Barbara Gilchrest, an author on the paper, published in Nature, said: “Creating a material that behaves like skin is very difficult. Many people have tried to do this, and the materials that have been available up until this have not had the properties of being flexible, comfortable, non-irritating and able to conform to the movement of the skin and return to its original shape.”

The technology has been passed on to start-up company Olivo Laboratories, which will focus on its development. The team will initially focus on medical applications for the polymer in treating skin conditions.

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