A university professor in Chile has developed a green-coloured artificial skin from algae that can breathe, as Angela Moore reports.
A scientist in Chile is using microscopic algae to make skin... green skin. These very small, very simple plants are being used to develop a new artificial skin for humans. The problem with most current artificial skin is that there are no blood vessels - so the man-made skin cannot produce the oxygen it needs to live. But with algae, the skin can breathe through the process of photosynthesis. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) PROFESSOR AT THE INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING AND MEDICINE AT CHILE'S CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY, TOMAS EGANA, SAYING: "What we're basically doing is incorporating micro-algae, which are like microscopic plants into different types of materials. For example, when we apply artificial skin what we have is the characteristics of plants which means when it is lit up it can produce oxygen." And the benefits of the algae could go beyond just a cosmetic improvement. It may help human skin heal itself. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) PROFESSOR AT THE INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING AND MEDICINE AT CHILE'S CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY, TOMAS EGANA, SAYING: "These micro-algae can be genetically modified. So that in addition to producing oxygen they will produce different factors, for example antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pro-regenerative molecules. So, we are going to have material which is completely artificial and still, which is a structure that has material that is alive." Professor Egana says the green-colored skin could eventually be used to help patients treat open wounds, tumors and possibly avoid amputations. But patients need not worry about looking like the Incredible Hulk. Egana believes the green color will fade over time as the algae dies. At the moment, animal testing has proven a success. Human trials are expected next year.