Tighter skin for drug delivery?
New ‘second skin’ polymer material could not only protect dry skin but also might prove useful in delivering drugs
CAMBRIDGE, Mass—Scientists at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof and Olivo Labs have developed a new material that can temporarily protect and tighten skin, and smooth wrinkles. However, it’s less the cosmetic effects we want to draw DDNews readers’ attention to than another aspect—with further development, it could also be used to deliver drugs to help treat skin conditions.
The material, a silicone-based polymer that could be applied on the skin as a thin, imperceptible coating, mimics the mechanical and elastic properties of healthy, youthful skin, the researchers say.
“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. Those three things together could really make it ideal for use in humans,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.
Anderson is one of the authors of a paper describing the polymer in the May 9 online issue of Nature Materials.
About 10 years ago, the research team set out to develop a protective coating that could restore the properties of healthy skin, for both medical and cosmetic applications. 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 assembled into a network arrangement known as a cross-linked polymer layer (XPL). The researchers then tested the materials in search of one that would best mimic the appearance, strength, and elasticity of healthy skin.
In laboratory tests, the novel XPL’s elasticity was much better than that of two other types of wound dressings now used on skin — silicone gel sheets and polyurethane films.
Living Proof has spun out the XPL technology to Olivo Laboratories LLC, a new startup formed to focus on the further development of the XPL technology. Initially, Olivo’s team will focus on medical applications of the technology for treating skin conditions such as dermatitis.