TUESDAY, May 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- How do you think your skin would fare if it was immersed for months in a watery, urine-filled vat of fluid? It's not something you even want to consider.
Well, that's exactly the kind of environment that developing infants soak in for the nine months before they're born. Yet, just after they make their debut into this world, they have nearly perfect skin.
The reason for that may be something called vernix, says a study by researchers at the Skin Sciences Institute of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The researchers, who presented their findings May 6 at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Seattle, hope to develop a synthetic version of the protective coating.
Vernix is the white, cheesy substance comprised of fats, proteins and water that covers infants in the womb for weeks before they're born. It's wiped off them immediately after birth.
However, this study of full-term infants found that newborn skin with vernix left intact is less scaly, more hydrated and has a more rapid decrease in pH than newborn skin with vernix removed. Those benefits suggest vernix should be left on babies after they're born.
Not only is vernix a skin moisturizer, it also acts as a wound healer, cleanser, anti-infective and antioxidant, the study says.
Children's Hospital has four patents on vernix technology and is trying to create a synthetic kind of vernix that could be used in a variety of ways. That includes: using it as a replacement for low-weight, premature babies born before vernix develops at 27 weeks; as a skin cream or lotion; as a film on diapers, wound dressings and other products; and as a delivery vehicle for medications.
Here's where you can learn more about newborns.