Skip to Content

Fake Skin Kills Bacteria

Skin that helps burn victims fight off infection.
March 1, 2007

One of the problems with artificial skin is its vulnera­bility to infection. Synthetic skin is used in burn treatment and plastic surgery, but blood vessels, which carry the immune system’s machinery, may not connect to the new dermis for a week or two. “Without blood vessels, bacteria can grow and cause infection,” says ­Ioannis Yannas, a bioengineer and materials scientist at MIT who helped develop the first artificial-skin product, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the mid-1990s. In a new approach, cultured skin cells are genetically modified to produce higher levels of an antibacterial protein. The cells multiply in the lab and are injected into a collagen matrix of artificial skin. “We’re using genetic modification to try to get the cultured skin to behave more like normal skin,” says Dorothy Supp, a researcher at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital for Children in Ohio, who led the project. Supp cautions that the engineered cells are far from clinical use: the true test of their bacteria-fighting properties will come in the complex environment of a real wound. The researchers are planning experiments in animal models. The technique could eventually be used to make skin that can sweat and tan after implantation.

Skin cells engineered to produce more antibacterial proteins appear green.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.