A group of scientists from Stanford University, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Cambridge MIT, and Northeastern University of Boston created in laboratory the first artificial skin. The goal is to coat artificial prosthesis with this tissue in order to render them sensitive as if they were real arts: feel hot, cold, softness or hardness of a surface again through a completely mechanical system. This is the result of bioengineering, which is able to achieve more and more incredible goals to meet the medical needs of human beings.
The artificial skin is flexible and it has organic sensors that permit to reproduce the characteristics of human skin, such as the sense of touch. Zhenan Bao, coordinator of a 17 people work team, says to the journal Science: “It is the first time that a flexible material similar to the skin can detect the pressure and transmit the electrical signal to the brain”.
How is it possible? The skin is made of billions of carbon nanotubes organized in tiny pyramids that, in turn, are contained in two layers of plastic. When there is a pressure or movement, the plastic sensors stimulate the nanotubes to deliver electrical signals – easily read by neurons – to the brain. In other words, the structure of the artificial skin is able to send clear signals to the brain using a system which is similar to the natural one. The innovation introduced by this electronic fabric is its flexibility and strength, which are fundamental characteristics to emulate the human skin, often prone to tension and bending.
Standford engineers are not going to stop here, in fact they are working to improve the efficiency of this tissue, to employ the artificial skin to the prosthesis as soon as possible.
Which is the next plan of this team of scientists? The human hand has six types of biological mechanisms of sensation, and the next target of this team is to duplicate all of them in the artificial skin. We just have to wait and wish good luck to the team!