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Richard Guy
Professor Richard Guy

Press Release - 21 February 2005

Free inaugural lecture: Science meets the skin

An inaugural lecture at the University of Bath (Wednesday 23 February 2005) will give local people the chance to find out how some of the amazing properties of their skin are helping researchers develop new medical technologies.

Skin forms an important barrier that helps prevent harmful microorganisms and chemicals from entering the body and prevents the loss of life-sustaining body fluids. But it also helps regulate body temperature, excretes some waste products and is an important sensory organ.

“The skin is a fascinating membrane with many remarkable properties that provide a unique interface between us and our environment”, said Professor Richard Guy, from the University’s Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology who will be giving the lecture.

”On the one hand skin is a unique barrier, and on the other it provides a real opportunity for delivering drugs and monitoring what is happening in a patient.”

As part of his talk, Professor Guy will describe the development of the skin in the foetus, and how newly-born premature babies are often at risk because their skin barrier is incompletely formed. One of the hopes from the research is that it will lead to the development of new ways of delivering drugs to these fragile babies and monitoring their vital signs, without having to use needles to do so.

Some of the technologies already available in this area include patches containing drugs that patients can wear on their skin. These drugs, such as estradiol for hormone replacement therapy, cross the skin into the patient’s body whilst the patient carries on with their normal daily tasks.

Another technology uses the process of iontophoresis, pioneered by Professor Guy, where a small electric current applied to the skin, through a device worn by the patient, can help therapeutic drugs cross the skin into the body.

Reverse iontophoresis, where samples can be taken from the body, has already been put to use in the GlucowatchTM which is helping diabetics in the US keep track of their glucose levels throughout the day without the need for routine ‘finger stick’ samples to be taken.

As well as looking to extend the range of drugs that can be delivered in this way, the researchers are developing this technique to monitor for the presence of different molecules that indicate whether a person has a particular condition or disease.

The research is also helping shed new light on improving treatments for the skin itself. Dermatological complaints are among the most important categories of problems for which people go to see their GPs, yet the performance of most creams and ointments is often very low.

“Figuring out how to do this better is a key challenge for us,” said Professor Guy. “We have made some progress in predicting drug delivery to the skin itself, which also helps us work out how to minimise the risks associated with handling the toxic chemicals and substances found in household products, personal care products and cosmetics.”

The free public lecture will start at 6.15 pm and will be held in lecture theatre 2 East 3.1 on the University’s Claverton Down campus. People interested in attending can obtain free tickets from Sheila Willmott on 01225 386 631, s.d.willmott@bath.ac.uk.