The Skin Barrier Facility
The Skin Barrier Research Facility, operated by Sheffield Dermatology Research, is based within the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. It provides a specialist environment for the conduct of high quality human research. With a focus on experimental medicine the facility caters for translational human research that falls outside the remit of the Sheffield Clinical Research Facility (CRF). For randomized controlled trails of novel treatments in patients we work in partnership with the CRF and Children’s CRF, providing specialist equipment and technical/dermatology expertise.
The Skin Barrier
The skin barrier is formed by the uppermost layer of the skin and provides a vital protective function by restricting water loss from our bodies and preventing the ingress of harmful irritants allergens and bacteria. Often compared to a brick wall, the skin barrier (Figure 1) is composed of interlocking pentagonal corneocytes (bricks) enmeshed in a lipid matrix (mortar). Abnormalities in the structure and function of the skin barrier underpin a number of dermatological conditions, the most common of which are atopic dermatitis/eczema and xerosis (dry skin). Being a highly visible part of our bodies, alterations in the structure of the skin barrier also change our appearance and affect our psychological wellbeing. The skin barrier research facility was first established in 2009 to support and conduct high quality research into skin barrier structure, function, dysfunction and repair.
The Skin Barrier Research Facility comprises a suite of specialized consultation/treatment rooms for research studies in human participants and a laboratory for basic research and sample analysis. Being fully climate controlled the consultation rooms provide the optimum conditions for biophysical skin assessments, such as TEWL measurements. The rooms provide a dedicated environment for a range of human research activities, which currently range from the collection of biological samples (blood and skin), development and testing of novel diagnostics, the development of novel topical products, the evaluation of skincare practices and skin treatments, and the investigation of inflammatory mechanisms for example. A portfolio of specialist skin diagnostic and analytical equipment is maintained and ready for use within the rooms (details below).
Members of staff at the University of Sheffield are welcome to use the rooms and/or equipment for human research in any field. Please contact Kirsty Brown to arrange an induction and gain access to the online booking system.
The Skin Barrier Team
A dedicated team of experienced clinical researchers from the Sheffield Dermatology Research supports the research activities undertaken within the Skin Barrier Research Facility. The team ensures the facilities and the research conducted within them meets all the necessary standards for high-quality clinical research.
The lab acts as a hub for an extended team of clinical and academic investigators, research technicians, and bioengineers from across the University. Together they have extensive experience in conducting mechanistic studies, investigating a range of dermatological interventions in adults, children and neonates.
For clinical research involving investigational medicinal products or vulnerable people (i.e. neonates) the team works with the CRF (adults and neonates) and Children’s CRF using the skin barrier lab as a technical base.
Our team offers a contract research service, undertaking a range of skin related activities for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. As a research-led unit our services are not limited to specific tests and we are open to new challenges. We have developed a series of non-invasive skin-sampling methods for quantifying skin biomarkers relating to skin barrier function, cutaneous inflammation and antimicrobial defence mechanisms. Examples of our services include:
- Basic (in vitro) skin research
- Topical product development and testing
♦ Cutaneous safety testing
♦ Claims testing
- Randomised-controlled trials involving dermatological interventions in adults, children and neonates
Enquires: To discuss a research project please contact Simon Danby
A portfolio of specialist skin diagnostic and analytical equipment is available for use within the Skin Barrier Lab or at the CRF and CCRF:
- Aquaflux AF200 transepidermal water loss (TEWL) machines (Biox) – determination of skin barrier function
- C&K Corneometers (CM825) – indirect assessment of skin hydration
- C&K Mexameters (MX18) – objective quantification of skin redness/erythema
- C&K Skin-surface-pH meters (PH905)
- C&K Sebumeter (SM815) – quantification of skin sebum levels
- C&K cutometer – determination of skin elasticity
- Skin friction meter
- ATR-FTIR spectrometers – molecular analysis of skin surface properties
- Vivosight medical scanner (optical coherence tomography, Michelson Diagnostics) – imaging of skin structure and vascular architecture
- Polarization-sensitive (PS)-OCT scanner – quantification of skin collagen levels and structure
- High-definition OCT scanner – resolution of the stratum corneum
- Squamescan 850A (CuDerm) – analysis of skin surface tape-strip samples
Sheffield Dermatology Research
Internal Technical Enquiries: