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Sci Adv. 2019 Oct 9;5(10):eaay0244. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aay0244. eCollection 2019 Oct.

Morphology and composition play distinct and complementary roles in the tolerance of plantar skin to mechanical load.

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Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Department of Surgery, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Plantar skin on the soles of the feet has a distinct morphology and composition that is thought to enhance its tolerance to mechanical loads, although the individual contributions of morphology and composition have never been quantified. Here, we combine multiscale mechanical testing and computational models of load bearing to quantify the mechanical environment of both plantar and nonplantar skin under load. We find that morphology and composition play distinct and complementary roles in plantar skin's load tolerance. More specifically, the thick stratum corneum provides protection from stress-based injuries such as skin tears and blisters, while epidermal and dermal compositions provide protection from deformation-based injuries such as pressure ulcers. This work provides insights into the roles of skin morphology and composition more generally and will inform the design of engineered skin substitutes as well as the etiology of skin injury.

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