Researchers borrow astronomy algorithms to tackle skin conditions


Computer simulations created by researchers at the University of St Andrews could be used to create more effective treatments for tackling skin conditions.

Research carried out at the Scotland university used algorithms usually used in astronomy to test how certain treatments would work in medical trials.

The research team used these to assess whether drugs – in this case psoralens, used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis – would improve the condition for patients when the drugs were activated with ultraviolet (UV) light.

The results concluded a medical trial would be effective to justify trying the treatment on real patients.

It’s hoped the simulations could revolutionise treatment development by predicting likely outcomes with different light-based treatments, reducing costs and helping to decide whether expensive trials on patients would be worthwhile.

A medical trial of this light-activated treatment, for cases of psoriasis, is now planned.

Funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Impact Accelerator Award, the project is a collaboration between the Photobiology Unit at Ninewells Hospital and the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews.

Isla Barnard of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews said: “The algorithms which were used in the study are often used in astronomy to simulate how radiation travels through stars and galaxies.

“Radiation from stars bounces off many particles on its journey through the galaxy and, physically, this process is similar to how radiation travels through skin.

“This means the same computer models developed for astronomy can be used to model how radiation travels into the skin. This helps determine how deep in the skin the radiation can penetrate, allowing us to predict dosages and treatment effects.”

The full report is available to read here

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