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Diagnosing skin disease by laser

The latest imaging technique may lead to more reliable allergy tests and skin cancer screening. Producers of skin care products could also benefit from new laser technology.

Background

Each year European dermatologists perform 2 to 3 million patch tests to diagnose skin all...
The latest imaging technique may lead to more reliable allergy tests and skin cancer screening. Producers of skin care products could also benefit from new laser technology.

Background

Each year European dermatologists perform 2 to 3 million patch tests to diagnose skin allergies. An EU directive requires cosmetics companies to test both the safety and efficacy of skin care products. To evaluate skin reactions, there is a need for more sensitive and reliable techniques. Recently, a Swedish team of biomedical instrumentation experts invented the Laser Doppler Perfusion Imager, an instrument that scans an area of skin with a laser, records changes in the light after it has bounced off moving blood, and generates a map of blood flow in the skin. Since many abnormal skin conditions are accompanied by blood flow changes, the imager has great potential as a diagnostic tool in dermatology. It is now important to develop and validate cost-effective, standardised diagnostic procedures. Applications in skin care product development, irritant and allergy testing, and skin cancer screening are the focus of the Innovation programme project "High Resolution Laser Doppler Perfusion Imaging" (HIRELADO).

Description, impact and results

One major goal of the project is to improve the accuracy of patch testing, a technique widely used to test for allergies and to evaluate the irritancy of cosmetics and industrial or domestic chemicals. The idea is to replace visual inspection of the skin with objective flow measurements to reduce the rate of false positives (currently 20%) and false negatives. The imager should also prove useful in interpreting microdialysis tests, in which potential irritants are administered via an inserted fibre. Blood flow patterns which may have the potential to distinguish benign from malignant skin tumours that can be characterised to develop a screening test for skin cancer are currently being investigated, while other applications include testing the effects of new skin care products.

The partners are carrying out extensive inter-laboratory comparisons to ensure user-independent results. They will issue guidelines for optimisation of critical parameters. Once the standardised applications are validated, they are likely be adopted by many institutions. The outcome should be better diagnosis of skin diseases, improved screening for harmful chemicals, and a more competitive European skin care products industry.

Working partnerships

The HIRELADO partners comprise an expert team equipped to handle all stages of the project from the research through to the end-user. Sweden's players include the Biomedical Engineering Department at Linkoping University which invented the Laser Doppler Perfusion Imager, Lisca AB, the spin-off company formed to develop and market the instrument, and the Swedish National Institute of Working Life. Denmark's Leo Pharmaceutical Products develops skin care products. In Germany, work was carried out by proDERM, a test institute offering consultant services, and Ruhr University Bochum dermatology department.

Project title: High Resolution Laser Doppler
Perfusion Imaging
Fourth Framework Programme
Innovation Programme
Project reference: IN10178I


Source: European Commission, DG XIII/D.4 - Information and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge

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