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New artificial skin can feel real pain
(CNN)Pain may not be desirable, but it's essential for survival. An effective and sophisticated defense mechanism, pain is our body's way of telling us that something's wrong and that we should take immediate action to avoid injury.
Skin -- the body's largest organ -- is constantly monitoring for pain. It can trigger pain-avoiding actions automatically through reflexes, for example when we touch something dangerously hot.
Now, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have created an artificial skin that mimics this mechanism and reacts to pain stimulade of silicone rubber, it has the texture of real skin and is also "very similar to skin in its mechanical properties," says Madhu Bhaskaran, an engineering professor at RMIT University and the project's lead researcher. It could lead to groundbreaking innovations in prosthetics and robotics.
Just like real skin, the artificial version is designed to react when pressure, heat or cold surpass a pain threshold. Its outer layers sandwich electronic circuits studded with sensors, which respond to stimuli.
"The fascinating thing about our body is that it works by sending electrical signals into a central nervous system," says Bhaskaran. Electronic circuits work in a similar way, and are just as fast, she explains.