Perhaps you don’t realize your most likely first brush with the concept of biomimicry but, you may recall the show, The Six Million Dollar Man. In 1974-78 these words were emblazoned on everyone’s mind and commonly parroted by watchers at the opening of each show, “Steve Austin, astronaut. Barely alive.” “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.” But that idea to most of our limited knowledge at the time, was just science fiction, it could never be the truth.
Biomimetics Definition & Meaning
If art imitates life than this was a perfect example of biomimetics. Only we knew it as bionics which is another term that is considered interchangeable. Bionics or biologically inspired engineering, as it was defined by Jack E. Steele in 1960 through his work in Aeronautical Engineering, is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature. Bionic implants differ from mere prostheses by mimicking the original function very closely, or even surpassing it.
Considered a blend of science and art, biomimicry then is innovation inspired by nature. The simplest way to describe biomimetic design is that which imitates life. It seems that the intersection of technology and biology is one place we have found inspiration for today’s innovative design in sciences and technology across life.
Otto H. Schmitt, an American biophysicist and one of the key founders of the biomedical engineering field coined and regularly used the term in the early 1960’s but, officially published an article on “biomimetics” in 19691. Following that introduction, Webster’s Dictionary added it in 1974. The terms biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek word’s bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Other terms often used are bionics, bio-inspiration, and biognosis. In the literature, Biomimicry appeared in 1982 but it was not until 1997 in her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, that Janine Benvus2 is credited for popularizing the idea of a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”. Throughout her works, Benvus emphasized sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.
Biomimicry Definition & Examples
There are generally three types of biomimicry modeled after three biological levels in the fauna or flora – one is imitating mechanisms of action; Velcro is the most famous example of biomimetics.
Another is mimicking natural methods of manufacture, like photosynthesis in a leaf, and the third is mimicking at an ecosystem level – studying organizational principles from the social behaviors, such as ant foraging and bee foraging and leading to the building of a nature-inspired city. Some examples of Biomimicry inspired designs that have changed the way products we use every day are made are Fireflies which are the model for LED bulbs, the adhesive that allows mussels to stick to rocks inspired bio adhesive gel for blood vessels, and Humpback Whale Fins have led scientists and engineers to create the methodology of Wind Power.
The term “biomimetic” is preferred for references to chemical reactions, such as reactions that, in nature, involve biological macromolecules (e.g., enzymes or nucleic acids) whose chemistry can be replicated in vitro using much smaller molecules.
Biomimicry in Skincare – what is it?
Biomimetic skin care is an advanced approach to formulation utilizing innovative plant-based and synthetic biomimetic ingredients that integrate nature and science. These ingredients mimic skin structures and biochemicals which enable optimal delivery and results; this is the next frontier in natural skin care.
Several years ago, I was introduced to Dr. Cesar Mauricio Rojas, a scientist in Bogota, Colombia who had an intriguing technology in the cosmetics arena. Utilizing a proprietary physiocell technology to utilize the most active parts of flora from the Amazon, enzymes from those plants were biologically altered and BioZymes were borne. Physiocell technology includes natural enzymes purification from plant sources, that are used to obtain and facilitate the bioavailability of existing phytocomponents mainly from Crassulaceae, Lamiaceae, Orchidiaceae, Asteraceae, Arecaceae, Euphorbiaceae plant families, which include about 300 different plant species.
The observation of nature and the understanding of the processes at different levels, both ecological and chemical, have allowed identification of the intrinsic values of plants such as Copoazu (Theobroma grandiflorum), whose fruit is used as a skin moisturizer and to strengthen the hair fiber or the Annatto (Bixa orellana) used as a healing agent and as an antibacterial agent.
Exotic fruits such as Yaca or Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), considered the largest fruit on the planet, are used in formulations for hair care. Moringa’s antioxidant capacity is used in anti-aging formulations and as anti-pollution for skin and hair.
Acerola cherry (Malphigia emarginata) Okra or Ladies’ fingers (Abelmoscus esculentus), Papaya (Carica papaya) and Karkade (Hibiscus sabdariffa), recognized for their wide use in the food industry, are incorporated into the formulations as powerful antioxidants.
As these examples exist many in the great biodiversity of the tropics; Biozymes biotechnology has made it possible to safely utilize the efficacy of its phytocomponents, taking care of the health of the skin microbiome and taking advantage of the synergistic effect that these plants offer at the service of all.
Today, they are used as preservatives like, Pinna Leaf NP™ and integral compounds of formulas that affect the life of products and the health of the skin directly due to their traits that mimic the natural behaviors of the chemistry of the skin. Spectroscopic studies show decreased melanin production, reduction in old cells, greater skin resistance, heightened skin nucleic acids (specifically DNA & RNA), significant improvement in water loss protection (Natural Moisturizing Barrier), increased ceramides, skin firmness and elasticity, ATP (skin energy), and impressive influences on new collagen production. As it turns out, BioZymes a true example of biomimetic skin care.
The increased interest in natural, sustainable product development has been the rage due to their seemingly friendly ingredients. Drawn from effective marketing campaigns in their favor of sustainability and against the suspected evils of traditional chemistry in personal care products and the environment, they are imagined by consumers to be safe, and effective. As chemists know they may be neither which is why the importance of a new term that has been hiding in plain sight for years is welcomed. Now we can explain how traditional chemistry, utilizing the ideal forms of the ingredients can and will mimic the natural abilities of healing and healthy skin lifelong.
Now, that which imitates life, is effectively impacting life itself.
1 Schmitt O. Third Int. Biophysics Congress. 1969. Some interesting and useful biomimetic transforms. p. 297.
2 Benyus, Janine (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York, USA: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 978-0-688-16099-9.
My introduction to the term and interest in biomimetics was also inspired by recently meeting noted pharmacist and nutritionist, Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R. Ph.
In our conversation he helped me to appreciate the true value of studying the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (such as enzymes) and biological mechanisms and processes (such as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic nature.