#Bacterial melanin clothes may protect us from UV rays in the future

I live in a country where it’s always hot most of the year (except when it’s raining). It’s a 15-minute walk under the scorching sun from my house to my workplace and it’s something I’ve gotten used to already (albeit with a lot of complaining). I am aware of all the UV rays that I’m absorbing every day although there’s no clear manifestation of it unless I check my weather app. But it’s a very real problem that our constant exposure to UV rays will eventually bring harm to our skin.

Designer: Maca Barrera

A speculative biofabrication project by Central Saint Martins graduate Maca Barrera called Melwear project tries to imagine clothes that are made from skin pigment melanin. They can actually become a form of sun and UV protection for us and even let us know what level of UV exposure we’re getting. This project actually uses two different technologies: the creation of melanin-produce bacteria and extracting the pigment from it and the bioprinting of artificial tissues with living cells.

The idea is to use bacterial melanin as sunscreen to shield our bodies from UV radiation since it has UV absorbance and antioxidant properties. The speculative membrane with encapsulated melanin will supposedly become darker the more the wearer is exposed to UV rays. Basically it’s supposed to become a second skin that will protect the user and also react with the environment so they become more aware that we need protection from the sun and to prevent skin cancer as well.

This is still very much a speculative project so there’s no functional prototype yet other than the production of the bacterial melanin and the testing of the bioprinting technology. It’s an interesting idea that can hopefully be explored more, although thinking about wearing something that’s made from melanin doesn’t necessarily bring visions of fashionable outfits.


Ida Torres

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