Monday 18 December 2017

Tattoos may hold clues to medical conditions

Testing for skin cancer
Testing for skin cancer
Aoife Morrin from DCU
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

SOMETHING as simple as a tattoo may be able to provide earlier detections of skin cancer and other health conditions.

Dublin City University-based researcher Dr Aoife Morrin is one of 40 researchers set to benefit from the new €23m bursary from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

She will use the €643,000 grant to develop "smart sensors" that will allow us to see internal health issues through our skin. Dr Morrin will lead a four-person research team that aims to develop "smart sensors in the form of skin tattoos and skin patches" which will "interrogate the skin" by analysing compounds being emitted from the organ.

"The skin holds a lot of information about how our different organs are doing inside our body. And, what these tattoos are going to do is extract that information into a readable format to tell us how we are doing," she said.

Dr Morrin said that some of the conditions they were currently looking at applications for were eczema patients as well as the "early detection of malignant melanomas within the skin" which will avoid patients having to undergo invasive surgery.

"Some type of skin tattoo or skin patch technology will be able to help us detect at a very, very early stage the proteins expressed by a malignant melanoma, without having to do surgery," she said.

"This is just at idea stage. Over the last few years I have been developing materials that I can see would be fit for application within skin diagnosis."

Research Minister Sean Sherlock described the new funding as "an investment in people".

"What we want to ensure is that the next generation of scientific leaders in Ireland will have funding pots of this nature to be able to conduct excellent research," he said.

He said that by allowing 40 of the country's most promising young researchers access to finance like this is "money well spent, because we will get a return on the investment".

The money is being delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through the SFI's Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and the Career Development Award (CDA) programmes.

Irish Independent

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