Researchers have created artificial "living" skin constructed out of human cells that is capable of healing itself.
A team of researchers has moved the scientific needle forward with the development of artificial living skin that is designed to give robots the look and touch of living creatures. As explained in the above/below video and in the researcher's paper penned in the journal Cell, the scientists from the University of Tokyo designed skin that molded itself to a robotic finger as it's very difficult to cut and glue skin onto the device manually.
The team explains that they dipped the robotic finger into a solution that consists of collagen and dermal fibroblast, which are cells that create proteins that basically form the structure and connectivity of human skin. The team then added epidermal cells, which are the main cells found on the outer layer of skin, and as explained by ScienceAlert, without these cells, the skin wouldn't repel water.
"It is difficult to cut, glue, or suture the endpoints of skin equivalent without damaging the soft, fragile tissue," wrote the team.
"I think living skin is the ultimate solution to give robots the look and touch of living creatures since it is exactly the same material that covers animal bodies," said Shoji Takeuchi, a tissue engineer from the University of Tokyo.
As seen above, the skin was able to endure the movements of the robotic finger. Notably, the "living" skin is able to heal with a collagen bandage that will be consumed by the cells within its structure and then used to repair any detected damage. While the artificial skin is certainly impressive, it isn't even close to the strength and durability of human skin, as the artificial skin cannot last long outside of its nutrition-rich environment.
Looking to the future, the researchers intend to improve their creation by carving channels into a layer of the skin to mimic blood vessels to supply water, which will avoid the skin drying out. Furthermore, researchers have proposed adding "nerves".
"Building perfusion channels within and beneath the dermis equivalent to mimic blood vessels to supply water, as well as the integration of sweating glands in the skin equivalent, are important directions for future research," proposed the team.
"We are surprised by how well the skin tissue conforms to the robot's surface. But this work is just the first step toward creating robots covered with living skin," says Takeuchi.
All this research is designed to bridge the gap between robotics and humans and, more specifically, how humans see, relate, and will eventually communicate with robots that are designed to resemble humans.
"These findings show the potential of a paradigm shift from traditional robotics to the new scheme of biohybrid robotics that leverage the advantages of both living materials and artificial materials," wrote the team.
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