The Department of Dermatology of Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (RUNMC), The Netherlands, is developing a new method for detailed examination of skin using light. The method can be used to determine whether skin is diseased or healthy, and also to visualize the effects of sliding on artificial turf or using an electric razor. The collaboration between medical experts, technologists, and entrepreneurs offers excellent perspectives for developing new products such as sport floors, artificial turf systems and depilation devices. The Dutch central government and the provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland invested three million euros in the Skin Comfort project; the eleven partners in the consortium contributed four million euros.
Skin is a complex biological system that encases the entire human body, protects it against intruders, and plays a part in fluid evaporation and the regulation of body temperature. The thin skin layer contains all kinds of elements, not only the skin cells themselves, but also nerve cells, capillaries, sebaceous glands, immune cells and hair. “Skin problems cannot always be detected by the naked eye,” says Rianne Gerritsen, dermatologist at RUNMC and secretary for the project. “Sometimes you need to look deeper and take a biopsy, i.e. a small skin sample for examination. Of course, it would be preferable to examine patients without having to perform such an invasive intervention.”
Such a noninvasive, innovative examination method is exactly what the Department of Dermatology at RUNMC has been developing over the past few years. Scientific researcher Piet van Erp: “We use a confocal microscope emitting laser light. The light penetrates the skin and is partly reflected. The reflected light enables us to look about 0.05 mm deep into the skin. In this way, we can obtain images of all the major skin components such as tiny blood vessels and various cell layers. We can even observe and examine separate cells.”
Initially, it was not clear what exactly could be seen in these images of the skin. Was it a skin cell or an immune cell? A healthy cell or a tumor cell? Van Erp: “Over the past few years, we have continually compared the confocal microscope images with skin biopsy data. We are now gaining a better understanding of what we see in these confocal microscope images, for example, whether or not we are dealing with skin tumors. This means we now have the knowledge and technology to look into the skin from outside. Skin has become ‘transparent’.”
This new technology is good news for patients. Dermatologist Gerritsen: “The number of people with skin tumors is increasing. We frequently see people with sun damage and skin tumors all over their bodies. It’s a hopeless task to take biopsies of all the spots that might contain developing tumor cells. With this new technology, however, such an extensive diagnosis can be made much more accurately, and in a much more patient-friendly manner. For example, a melanoma – the most aggressive type of skin tumor that develops from a mole – can be detected very quickly. These tumor cells contain a lot of pigment. Most cells that reflect a large amount of light contain this pigment. Part of the project is therefore to examine how this new technology can be used effectively in patient care.”
I thought this was interesting. See the full article HERE …