Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Squid colour-changing skin organs - chromatophores - inspire bioengineered material design

22 July 2019

Squid Pro Glow

As if escaping a shark, this squid shows off its camouflage – playing with how light dances off its skin to ‘disappear’ in the eyes of predators. Its secret lies in light-changing organs beneath the skin – here chromatophores (yellow dots) are full of coloured pigments which can absorb certain colours of light. Recently researchers discovered that the same organs are also capable of structural colour – changing or diffracting the path of light rays. Along with other skin organs, the balance of these different talents helps to explain how squid skin shimmers to hide itself, or send signals to other squid. Bioengineers are hoping to mimic these natural designs as a human ‘smart skin’ – possibly as a form of camouflage for military defence or as wearable medical sensors to allow doctors to quickly assess at risk patients.

Written by John Ankers

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