Skip to navigationSkip to content
SWEET TREATMENT

A cotton candy machine could be used to help heal human tissue

Don’t eat this “cotton candy.”

Labs at Vanderbilt University and Harvard University, working with the National Science Foundation, are spinning cotton candy-like fibers for doctors and the military. Instead of sugar, researchers pour polymers into a cotton candy machine to make a heap of wispy strands. One research team is experimenting with combining the polymer fibers with hydrogel, which is a substance placed on wounds to keep them moist and help them heal. When the fibers dissolve into the hydrogel, they leave behind a tiny network of channels that resemble human capillaries. When this hydrogel is put on a wound, blood and nutrients can flow through the channels, making it easier for the tissue to heal.

Additionally, scientists are looking into weaving the fibers into lighter bulletproof vests for soldiers.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.