Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Spotty Skin
22 April 2015

Spotty Skin

They may look alien beings, but these are actually computer models of two human volunteers – albeit probably quite smelly ones. After three days without soap or a shower, the coloured spots on the body parts on the left show the variety of bacteria living on the skin. Red spots show skin areas with many different bacteria, while cooler rainbow colours indicate less variety. Surprisingly, the variety of bacteria only partially matches with the chemical makeup of the skin’s surface (the different patterns of spots on the right), suggesting other factors, like environment and lifestyle, also have major effects on our skin. These 'skin maps' also reveal different skin patterns between the volunteers (compare the hands on the top row to the hands below) hinting at a bright, spotty future for this technique in personalised medicine, analysing our skin’s individual geography and predicting the effects of harmful chemicals.

Written by John Ankers

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