Published on 10/02/2024
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Aston University study could pave the way to non-invasive techniques to detect skin cancer
Image of hand of 71 year old
  • New study offers an analysis of how ageing affects the light polarisation properties of human skin
  • Researchers found changes in older skin texture affect appearance of light scattering
  • Could be a stepping stone to developing non-invasive, light-based techniques for early detection of skin conditions, including cancer, in the elderly.

A study conducted by Aston University researchers has demonstrated that the appearance of ageing skin looks noticeably different compared to younger skin, when examined under polarised laser light.

The scientists believe that their new finding could pave the way for new, non-invasive light-based techniques to detect diseases, including cancer, in older individuals. This could significantly enhance early-stage treatment options for various skin conditions.

It has already been established that two classes of polarised, linearly and circularly, can detect changes in skin that aren’t visible to the human eye.

The new study indicates that the altered light scattering properties of ageing skin are largely due to changes in the skin’s texture, which are associated with the depletion of collagen fibres in the dermal layer.

The research was led by Igor Meglinski, professor in quantum biophotonics & biomedical engineering and conducted under his guidance with Dr Viktor Dremin from Aston University’s Institute of Photonic Technologies. The paper “Incremental residual polarization caused by aging in human skin” will be published in the May 2024 edition of the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

The researchers analysed images of the middle fingers of 32 volunteers aged 22 to 76 to study skin aging. They also used the Monte Carlo method, a mathematical technique, to represent the effects of light circulation within the human skin. This technique was developed by Professor Meglinski in 2001. Combined with the visual data from the images, this enabled the researchers to draw conclusions about the optical properties of ageing skin.

Professor Meglinski said: “Our research offers a comprehensive analysis of how aging affects human skin polarisation properties. This could be a stepping stone to developing non-invasive, light-based techniques for early detection of skin conditions, including cancer, in the elderly.”

The findings of the research could support the development of a method of skin analysis which doesn’t rely on the patient undergoing biopsies or surgery.

It could provide instant assessments of age-related skin changes that can be extended to monitor changes associated with the development of diabetes and other conditions.

The research was conducted alongside researchers at the University of Oulu in Finland and the University of Latvia.

Notes to editors

Journal of Biomedical Optics 2024 May;29(5):052912. Epublished  2023 Nov 14.
Incremental residual polarization caused by aging in human skin
Viktor Dremin,1,2,* Elena Zharkikh,1 Ivan Lopushenko,1 Zbignevs Marcinkevics,3 Alexander Bykov,1,* Igor Meglinski1,2,4
1Univ. of Oulu (Finland)
2Aston University. (United Kingdom)
3Univ. of Latvia (Latvia)
4I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical Univ. (Russia)
[DOI: 10.1117/1.JBO.29.5.052912]
Professor Igor Meglinski was named in the top 100 of photonics experts in 2023. He is widely recognised for his pioneering research in cell and tissue imaging using polarised light, as well as his recent ground-breaking work in utilising vector laser light carrying orbital angular momentum for medical and biomedical diagnostics.

About Aston University
For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.
Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.
Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.
Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.
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