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A plaster instead of a biopsy


Researchers at Malmö University have received grants of almost 15 million Swedish kronor to finance a new research project that will aim to produce a plaster that can be used to diagnose skin disorders. 

Biofilms research centre

The research, funded by the Knowledge Foundation, will take place in partnership with industry and researchers at other universities. 

The incidence of skin disorders has increased significantly in recent years, and skin cancer is now one of the most common forms of cancer in Sweden. To make a diagnosis, tissue samples – biopsies – are required. Biopsies are costly, and for patients it often means a long and anxious wait before they receive the results.

“If we were to halve the number of biopsies with the aid of an alternative diagnostic tool, we would save millions each year. As the results would be available immediately, the patient would avoid the mental stress of having to wait,” said Malmö University's Professor Johan Engblom.

Prototype within four years

 Together with his colleagues at Malmö University, Professor Tautgirdas Ruzgas and Professor Anette Gjörloff-Wingren, Engblom is embarking on a new research project that aims to produce a plaster to diagnose skin disorders.                   

“The goal is that within the next four years we will have a prototype that will be ready for use in clinical trials,” said Ruzgas. 

The research project, ‘Non-invasive monitoring of the progression and healing of skin disorders – a low molecular weight biomarker approach’, is what is termed a synergy project. 

In search of small molecules 

Research will take place in three areas. The first involves identifying which biomarkers are relevant and how the relationship between these markers can be changed in the presence of inflammation and skin cancer.                                                 

“When you take a tissue sample, you examine whether the relationship between certain molecules in the tissue has changed. These are large molecules that are unable to penetrate the skin. We want to investigate whether there are smaller molecules that can penetrate the skin and be used as biomarkers. In other words, we want to examine whether the relationship between the small molecules reflects the change in the relationship between the large molecules,” explained Gjörloff-Wingren.

Attracting and capturing biomarkers 

The second area that will be investigated is the transport of the molecule through the skin.

“This involves not only studying the characteristics of the skin and how substances penetrate, but also how we can influence the penetration using a range of substances. This could be seen as a way of attracting the molecules that function as biomarkers,” said Engblom.                

Finally, the researchers will produce substances and preparations that are sufficiently sensitive to capture the biomarkers.

Through collaboration with industry, the researchers would gain access to technology that could support the production of the plaster. For companies, it would be an invaluable part of their product development programmes.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist