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Environment & Science

What's beneath the surface of the 'second skin' polymer?




Screen cap from a video titled
Screen cap from a video titled "Engineering a second skin" on MIT's YouTube channel.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) YouTube page

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It sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie: "second skin" that can recover the properties of healthy skin and restore elasticity.

MIT researchers along with Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof and Olivo Labs have created a polymer that can be used for both medical and cosmetic reasons.

Second Skin

But is it hope or hype? For more, we turn to Gina Kolata, a medical reporter for New York Times who wrote about this new second skin.

Interview Highlights:

What is the second skin polymer?

"This is devised by material scientists at MIT and Harvard and they spent about 10 years on it. They wanted to find something that was invisible and you didn't feel it and it was breathable like skin is breathable and it was safe and it would restore the elasticity of your skin... but that's only part of it. Because they said if we have something that you could just put on your skin and it can hold a drug in place... like a cortisone cream..."

How does the second skin work, how do you put it on?

"You put this thing — it's like a lotion — you put it on, let's say, your face. Then you have to put another lotion on that sort of cross-links it, sort of links all the polymers together. They say depending on where it is and what you're doing, it lasts easily more than a day. One of the researchers said he put some on his forearm, he forgot it was even there and it was there for days. You can take it off with a special solution that dissolves it, but eventually, it also comes off by itself."

To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above.