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Synthetic Skin Gets a Second Life

German automation could make engineered skin affordable

2 min read

13 July 2009—Producing synthetic skin for grafts and testing the safety of drugs and chemicals is possible today, but it is a highly complex process requiring extensive manual work. A number of ventures that have tried to produce synthetic skin in large quantities have failed, largely due to a lack of automation in their manufacturing. But a team of scientists and engineers from several units of Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft believe they can make engineered tissue widely available using a fully automated process they recently demonstrated.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology worked with colleagues at the Fraunhofer institutes for Production Technology, Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, and Cell Therapy and Immunology to develop what they claim to be the first fully automated system to produce artificial skin, consisting of two layers with different cell types. It’s an ”almost perfect copy of the human skin,” says Professor Heike Mertsching, one of the coordinators of Fraunhofer’s Automated Tissue Engineering on Demand project.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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