The Times, the BBC, amongst others, are reporting this week of a significant breakthrough in transdermal technology. Scientists at University College London, and their corporate partners Stanmore Implants Worldwide have developed a method of allowing skin to heal, around transdermal implants such as prostheses for replacing amputated limbs and digits.
This is a wonderful example of the increasingly popular methodology of biomimesis, where chemists, engineers, architechts and those from a massive range of other disciplines take inspiration from and try to copy or replicate tools already evolved in the natural world. The theory of biomimetics is that if nature already has an elegant solution to a problem, why not attempt to synthesise that solution and apply it to a range of other situations? In this case, the UCL researchers realsied that, whilst humans have great trouble healing strucures which protude outwards from under the skin, deer, with antlers that are fused into their skulls but protude through the skin, sealed by a sturdy and impenetrable skin pocket, have no such difficulty.
You can see a sample image (from the BBC) of the type of solution they developed, based on the root structure of deer antlers. The subdermal base s full of tiny holes, which allow the skin to “mesh” into the implant and successfully incorporate it into even really motive areas like the thumb. It immediately struck me that something similar to the implant prosthetic these scientists have developed may be one direction in which the body modification community might be able to push cosmetic transdermal technology beyond the dismal rates of success it currently achieves. I sense implants with porous bases that are dotted with tiny holes would be immensely difficult to remove, but they’d certainly gain a massive amount of stability, and be effectively sealed from the types of inward travelling infections that have been documented in this community recently.