In Anti Aging News: Imagine Self-Healing Skin

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Aging Skin | Friday, November 23, 2012 - 09:23 AM

skin healing researchSkin is strong and resilient, but it can be difficult to regenerate in some cases after injury. There have been many attempts by scientists to come up with ways to get human skin to mend itself, but until now no real “healing skin” was possible.

Stanford Researchers believe they’ve developed what others have been unable to do in the past; create the first synthetic, plastic skin that is capable of self-healing. The team of scientists used electrical conductivity and self-healing to come up with this breakthrough.

Researchers Explain the Healing Process

The researchers have explained that the healing process works thanks to chemical bonding. The skin is made up of molecules that are connected by hydrogen bonds, which easily reconnect themselves. If the plastic is damaged it is therefore able to return to its original state. Small particles of nickel were added to the plastic skin to give it strength. Adding nickel makes the polymer conductive, helping to create an electrical field. In order for the skin to be able to feel pressure and temperature, electricity has to be present and this mechanism seems to work for the plastic skin.

To test the plastic skin, the team of researchers took a scalpel to a piece of the material and cut it in half. They then pressed the two pieces together, discovering that in a matter of seconds the original piece gained back 75 per cent of its strength and electrical conductivity. Once they waited about 30 minutes it was 100 per cent restored. The scientists went a step further by bending, stretching and cutting the same piece 50 more times, but it withstood the strain just as it did in the original cutting test.

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The skin is not perfect though. It turns out that nickel can prevent hydrogen bonds from reconnecting as well as they should. To get around the problem, the scientists say they have to adjust the shape of the particles and the chemical properties of the polymer they use. They are confident though, that they can work around the issue.
What Healing Skin Means

The Stanford skin development has been published in the journal ‘Nature Nanotechnology’ and is being examined by scientists around the globe. A flexible skin that senses pressure and self-heals can be used to expand the application of current electronic skin systems. It can also potentially be used in emerging fields of soft robotics and biomimetic prosthesis. Biomimetics are systems that use nature as inspiration.

The lead researcher, Chemical Engineering Professor, Zhenan Bao says her team of experts are working on the next step…trying to make the healing skin stretchy and transparent. She sees it as a “suitable” way to overlay electronic devices or display screens. Others see commercial applications such as coating electrical devices and wires so that they can repair themselves and get electricity flowing again.

The General Quest for Healing Skin

In the last couple of decades there has been a lot of research conducted on skin and how to create human skin from various materials. Whenever news of a new experiment comes to light, one of the first thoughts that come to mind is the cosmetic industry. The quest to look younger has turned the cosmetic industry into a multi-billion dollar venture. Products to treat aging skin fly off store shelves around the world. Many people are now wondering could this plastic skin discovery help our aging population in their desire to look younger. Although the team of scientists has not publicly commented on aging skin as a possible application, the healing skin discovery opens the door for further research and discussion around potential methods to tackle the aging issue; to perhaps allow those with aging skin to finally reach that fountain of youth


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