WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 -- Physicists and medical researchers for the first time have demonstrated a new technique that non-invasively measures in real time the level of damage to the skin from sun exposure and aging, and initial results suggest that women's skin ages faster than men's. Findings appear in the October 1 issue of Optics Letters, a journal of the Optical Society of America.
This new laser-based technique images the fabric of the deeper layers of the skin, combining methods for imaging collagen and elastin, whose degeneration causes the appearance of wrinkles and the progressive loss of skin smoothness. The technique measures relative amounts of collagen and elastin by a single factor, which can be positive or negative, like temperatures. Higher values of the factor correspond to higher collagen content, and to lower elastin content. Previously, each of the imaging techniques had only been tested on tissue extracted from live patients. Last year, Sung-Jan Lin, of National Taiwan University in Taipei, and collaborators, defined the collagen/elastin factor and demonstrated that it gave results consistent with the results of existing lab techniques.
In the new paper, researchers at Friedrich Schiller University, in Jena, Germany, at the Fraunhofer Institute of Biomedical Technology, in St. Ingbert, Germany, and at JenLab GmbH, a Jena-based laser technology company, tested the technique directly on the forearms of 18 patients, measuring the collagen/elastin factor. The team was also able to obtain images of tiny swaths -- one-fifth of a millimeter wide -- of the proteins' fibrous matrices, showing the physical appearance of the dermis, the white lower-layer of skin that gets exposed in deep abrasions.
Large variations appeared from patient to patient, and even from one part of a patient's forearm to another. "In a healthy 35-year-old, some areas can appear like the skin of a 25-year-old, and others like that of someone who's 50," said Johan
Contact: Colleen Morrison
Optical Society of America