Vernix caseosa is a natural coating found on the foetus which protects and nurtures its developing skin. Now, an artificial 'buttery' version of the real thing has been developed by researchers at Leiden University in Netherlands.
Joke Bouwstra and Robert Rissman say that their artificial "baby butter" may find a use outside the womb, in speeding up wound healing and treating eczema.
Natural vernix caseosa contains a mixture of fatty compounds that waterproof the foetus. It also contains dead cells called corneocytes, which store large amounts of water and ensure that the foetus does not get dehydrated.
The researchers point out that vernix may also act as a barrier to infections, reports New Scientist magazine.
With a view to mimicking the versatile substance, the research team mixed a range of fatty compounds including lanolin, fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol with particles made of a water-storing hydrogel.
Bouwstra revealed that upon rubbing the white cream on mice missing a patch of their outer skin, the group observed that the animals healed three times faster their untreated counterparts.
She said that besides aiding wound healing, the cream could also treat eczema, or be loaded with drugs to fight skin infections.
An article on how the researchers made this substance has been published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.