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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.