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​Reinhold Dauskardt: Human skin — the ultimate bio-interface

​New research on the biomechanical properties of skin has implications for new cosmetics, wearable tech, and treatment of damaged skin.

Two hands

The next generation of wearable electronics could be modeled off human skin. | Stocksy/BONNINSTUDIO

Skin is not only the largest organ, says Stanford professor of materials science and engineering Reinhold Dauskardt.

It’s also “the ultimate bio-interface” between your body and what can be a very aggressive external environment. In a presentation surveying various projects from his research group, Dauskardt focuses on the barrier function and mechanical stresses that form in the stratum corneum, which he calls one of the most critical layers in the structure of skin. “It is the barrier between you and the outside world, between all of the chemical or biological species that exist in the outside world and all the interior workings of your body.”

The research of Dauskardt’s group has implications for everything from skin care and cosmetics to wearable electronics — and not just things you strap on but semiconductor devices made out of stretchable plastics that adhere to your body. Monitoring physiological conditions and communicating through skin, he says, “is a very important frontier for technology development.” In addition, his group is building predictive models about how skin will react to different environments and moisturizing treatments, advancing our understanding of skin damage and potential treatments. “In the skin science community, nothing like this had ever been done. Not anywhere close. So this was a significant advance.”

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