Transparent tissue from University of California Irvine is genetically engineered to express proteins which change the way the cells scatter light.


  • Dynamic
  • Translucent
  • Responsive


  • Regenerative medicine
  • Medical treatments
  • Microscopy

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure


  • Squid

The Challenge

While becoming invisible has always seemed like science fiction, being able to increase the transparency of the cells on our skin may have useful biomedical applications. Seeing exactly what’s happening inside our cells in a given moment can be difficult. Technologies that allow us to watch medical conditions as they unfold in real time may offer life-saving solutions for multiple medical conditions.

Innovation Details

The transparent tissue is made of genetically engineered human embryonic cells that contain reflectin. Reflectin is a squid that helps the animal to camouflage by scattering light. This allows the squid to change colors, including going from nearly transparent to opaque, and back again. The genetically engineered tissue is able to similarly scatter light, turning the cells transparent.

Image: Atrouli Chatterjee / University of California, Irvine / Copyright © ‑ All rights reserved

Overview of the biological inspiration and the design of human cells with tunable optical properties. Photo: Atrouli Chatterjee/University of California, Irvine.

Biomimicry Story

Squids can evade predators by dynamically changing colors to blend into their surroundings. This is done, in part, by using leucophores, which are specialized reflective cells. Within the leucophore cells are leucosomes, a particle made of proteins called reflectins, which scatter light to change colors and create camouflage.