Mind & Matter


Liquid Skin

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PEG-HA injectible material developed by Johns Hopkins.


In my July print article entitled “Jailbreaking Cells,” I discussed the increasing convergence of biological and mechanical systems in medical research as well as architecture.

Recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins have revealed the development of a new liquid material that combines biological and synthetic molecules to heal human skin. The substance is made of the natural, elasticity-imparting hyaluronic acid (HA), combined with the surgical adhesive polyethylene glycol (PEG).

“Implanted biological materials can mimic the texture of soft tissue, but are usually broken down by the body too fast, while synthetic materials tend to be more permanent but can be rejected by the immune system and typically don’t meld well with surrounding natural tissue,” says Johns Hopkins professor Jennifer Elisseeff. “Our composite material has the best of both worlds, with the biological component enhancing compatibility with the body and the synthetic component contributing to durability.”

Although the new hybrid material is not yet market-ready, Elisseeff and her colleagues are developing the technology for the purposes of extensive facial reconstruction, which could benefit soldiers affected by blast injuries or benefit people with significant facial deformities.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.