A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital have devised an experimental polymer that has potential to change the dermatological field.
The invention, described in the journal Nature Materials, is a skin-conforming silicone-based polymer named XPL. The film is the culmination of five years’ of research aimed at identifying materials capable of replicating healthy skin.
First, the researchers analyzed the mechanical properties of XPL by ensuring it could mimic the properties of natural skin-like elasticity and flexibility while the finalized product was tested in a number of small proof-of-concept human studies to evaluate the material’s effectiveness in terms of wearability, safety, and preventing loss of moisture.
XPL was applied to participants in a two-step topical application process. The polymer reinforces the skin directly underneath the location where it’s applied in which another layer provides a breathable barrier.
Study results indicated XPL “improves skin function in patients with severely dry skin and restores normal skin aesthetics, limiting the appearance of aging-related structural changes like wrinkles and under-eye bagging,” according to Nature.
Furthermore, a statement from Olivo Labs, the company that supported the scientists’ research, said XPL had a better wearability rating when compared to two commercial wound dressings when it came to factors like thickness and visibility. The material also was able to lose less water than commercial moisturizers and keep skin hydrated.
Robert Langer, Ph.D., co-founder of Olivo and corresponding author to this study, said in a statement, “Developing a second skin that is invisible, comfortable, and effective in holding in water and potentially other materials presents many different challenges, which were are now able to address.”
An added benefit of this polymer is that it didn’t irritate patients’ skin. More research needs to be done in order to assess XPL’s potential as a drug delivery tool for individuals suffering from eczema or similar skin conditions.
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