Mind & Matter


A Hydrogel That Grows New Skin

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A hydrogel that grows new skin on burn sites. Photo: Johns Hopkins University.

The standard medical procedure for treating third-degree burns is to replace damaged skin with a graft from another part of the body, or from skin tissue cultured in a laboratory. These skin-replacement procedures are painful and complicated—driving researchers to seek better treatments.

Recently, scientists from Johns Hopkins University discovered that a new formulation of hydrogel encourages skin growth on burned areas. The substance—which consists of water and dextran—is able to grow new skin in three weeks, in addition to integral blood vessels, skin oil glands, and hair follicles. Moreover, the new growth is not scar tissue, but rather healthy skin that will likely be much less evident than traditional skin grafts.

The researchers believe that the hydrogel will be inexpensive to produce, and can be manufactured at large volumes in only a few years. A paper on the discovery was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



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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.