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Is this new polymer the next quick fix face lift?

By Simon Pitman+

18-May-2016
Last updated on 18-May-2016 at 15:02 GMT2016-05-18T15:02:26Z

Is this new polymer the next quick fix face lift?

A group of researchers has developed a silicone-based polymer that acts as a second layer of skin, creating a temporary tightening effect that could be the next anti-aging solution.

Scientists at the MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Living Proof and Olvio Labs collaborated on the project which has resulted in a material that could not only be used to smooth out wrinkles but also promises enhanced skin moisturization.

And beyond anti-ageing applications, the solution could also prove handy in providing longer-lasting UV protection, as well as in certain types of drug delivery and treating skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

The scientists say that the material can be applied to the skin’s surface to form a thin, imperceptible coating that manages to mimic many attributes of skin, including the mechanical and elastic properties.

Reshaping of eye bags and lower eyelids

In particular the research showed that tests on human subjects produced a reshaping of ‘eye bags’ and the lower eyelids – often tell tale signs of photoageing – as well as enhancing skin hydration.

"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," said 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 (IMES).

The results of the research have been published in a recent edition of the online edition of the Nature Materials journal, which outlines the steps the team took to develop the material and to conduct the trials.

Research has been ten years in the making

The premise for the research was the fact that skin loses elasticity as it ages, which ten years ago triggered a search to develop a protective coating to replicate this elasticity.

The researchers went through a library of more than100 polymers all based on the chemical siloxane, which can be assembled into a network arrangements known as cross-linked polymer layer (XPL).

They then tested for the polymer that would have the best optical and mechanical properties to hit the right aesthetic and performance requirements.

Testing the materials, the scientists discovered that the best performing XPL were those that returned to their original state after being stretched by more than 250%. This compares to natural skin, which on average can be stretched to around 180%.

"Creating a material that behaves like skin is very difficult," says Barbara Gilchrest, a dermatologist at MGH and an author of the paper.

"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, nonirritating, and able to conform to the movement of the skin and return to its original shape."

And the results look convincing...

The result of the research is an XPL that is applied in a two-step process: firstly a polysiloxane component is applied followed by a platinimum catalyst that induces the polymer to form a strong cross-linked film that can remain in place for up to 24 hours.

Both of these layers can be applied as a cream or ointment to the skin and the resulting coating is not visible to the human eye.

The coatings were tested on both eye bags and the forearm of the skin. The testing on the eye bags showed that the coating applied a steady force to the skin that tightened it, while testing on the forearm using a suction cup showed that skin elasticity was far greater than untreated skin.

Likewise, testing also proved that the XPL prevented less water loss than skin that was treated with a high-end commercial moisturizer, while no participants reported irritation from the XPL.

Research into XPL has now been spun off to Olivo Laboratories, which will initially be researching into medical applications for the technology.

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