Microwaving sun-damaged skin for three seconds may prevent cancer.
In a new trial, the treatment — where a hand-held probe that emits microwaves is placed above the skin — is being used to tackle actinic keratosis, sun-related damage that affects exposed parts of the body such as the face, back of the hands and scalp.
Actinic keratosis takes the form of small, scaly spots or keratoses, which are often rough to the touch and typically measure 1cm to 2cm in diameter, though they can be much larger.
Keratoses are extremely common after the age of 60 and, while most don’t become problematic, up to 2 per cent develop into squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer.
If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can in time spread to other parts of the body.
Treatments such as creams containing 5-fluorouracil (a form of chemotherapy) and diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) can be effective, but they can also cause itchiness and make the skin sore.
Another option is freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen to remove it. This, too, can be painful and may lead to a loss of natural skin colouring; there is also a small risk of scarring. Surgery can also leave a scar. The new treatment, developed by UK-based Emblation and on trial in Germany and the U.S., removes the keratosis but with a lower risk of scarring.
In a new trial, the treatment — where a hand-held probe that emits microwaves is placed above the skin — is being used to tackle actinic keratosis, sun-related damage that affects exposed parts of the body such as the face, back of the hands and scalp
Researchers at Dundee University tested the treatment on 11 people with nearly 200 keratoses between them: 93 were treated with the microwave therapy and 86 left untreated
A probe is attached to a generator that emits the electromagnetic microwaves — this stimulates water molecules in the lesion, which raises the temperature and destroys the tissue.
Using the hand-held probe ensures the treatment is targeted at the keratosis only. The probe delivers microwave energy — 300 times less powerful than a microwave oven — to an area of up to 6mm in diameter and 3mm in depth. Several treatments may be needed for larger areas. Results from a small study, reported in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2020, showed the treatment to be effective in 90 per cent of cases.
Researchers at Dundee University tested the treatment on 11 people with nearly 200 keratoses between them: 93 were treated with the microwave therapy and 86 left untreated.
Keratosis can disappear naturally and the trial results show that those treated with microwaves were 154 times more likely to disappear.
In the new trial at Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, in the U.S., and Centroderm centre in Germany, 60 patients will be given the microwave treatment in three-second bursts, with three bursts, 20 seconds apart, for each keratosis. The effects will be monitored for 12 months.
Commenting on the technique, Dr Bav Shergill, a consultant dermatologist at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, said: ‘Actinic keratoses are a sign of sun damage and are associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancers.
‘There are a range of effective treatments available but any new options that are simple to use without side-effects are to be welcomed.
‘This microwave technology is a fascinating new option and I look forward to the final trial data.’
- A skin cream containing a drug that interferes with messages between cells is effective in the treatment of actinic keratosis, according to a new study. It contains tirbanibulin, a drug that blocks compounds called Src kinase, which are involved in signalling between cells and which are found at high levels in people with actinic keratosis. The cream is used for five days, and completely cleared keratosis in 49 per cent of patients, and partially cleared it in 72 per cent, said the researchers from the University of Texas.
Bracelet that could steady hand tremors
Scientists are testing a nerve-stimulating bracelet to treat essential tremor.
More than one million people in the UK live with the condition, which typically causes trembling hands. The cause is not fully understood, but one theory is that it is due to unusual electrical activity in the brain.
The bracelet emits mild electrical stimulation to nerves in the wrist, which it thought to interrupt the signals that cause the tremor.
Some 300 people with tremor are taking part in a trial of the bracelet, run by CVS Health Clinical Trial Services in the U.S. In a year-long trial, they’ll wear the bracelet for two sessions of 40 minutes a day.
- A fibre-rich chewing gum is being trialled as a tool to prevent obesity in children. In a trial at the University Hospital of Bern in Switzerland, nearly 100 overweight youngsters aged from ten to 16 will chew the gum, which comes from the acacia tree, or a placebo, for 20 minutes, three times a day, for six months, and their weight will be monitored. Previous research suggests the gum leads to weight loss due to the fibre curbing hunger.
Can mother of pearl pills treat crumbling bones?
A supplement made from mother of pearl may offer a new approach to preventing osteoporosis.
Around 200 post-menopausal women at risk of the condition are taking part in a trial at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France, assessing whether a supplement made of the shell material can help strengthen bones.
Mother of pearl is rich in calcium and other compounds — which the researchers believe will boost the creation of new bone and slow bone loss.
Participants will receive the pearl supplement for a year.
MINI MUSCLE MIGHT
The tiny muscles which play big roles. This week: Supraspinatus in the shoulder
The supraspinatus runs from the top of the shoulder blade to the top of the arm bone (the humerus).
As one of four ‘rotator cuff’ muscles, which stabilise the shoulder joint, this small muscle helps the arm move in an upward, sideways and outwards rotation movement.
Poor posture or hours slumped at a desk can weaken the supraspinatus and cause instability between the muscles of the rotator cuff, which can cause pain and make you prone to shoulder injures.
Clare Lewey, a physiotherapist based in Oxfordshire, recommends regularly stretching the muscles of the chest and strengthening the muscles of the upper back (squeeze the shoulder blades down and together, hold then release).
You can build strength in the supraspinatus by bending your arms at a 45-degree angle, keeping elbows close to your sides, palms facing inwards, and slowly rotating the hands out and back (like a door on a hinge), and build up to using small hand weights.
DO I REALLY NEED…
This week: Rezon Halos, £89.99, rezonwear.com
CLAIM: A headband ‘designed to protect the brain from impacts to the head while playing contact sports’. Lab tests have shown that this reduces rotational force impact by 61 per cent through ‘nine protective layers’.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Any sport — particularly those involving speed and the risk of falling — can lead to head injuries,’ says Jim Pate, a physiologist at CHHP London, a centre specialising in health and performance.
‘Serious knocks to the head can create rotational forces [when the brain rotates inside the skull], which can over time lead to severe concussion and permanent brain injury.
‘This headband guards the areas of the head most prone to impact [which includes the frontal lobe near the forehead, responsible for memory].
‘I tried it out on several runs and was barely aware of it, although there was less sweat absorbency compared to standard sweatbands. Otherwise it’s a great piece of kit.
‘The research from the manufacturer looks robust.’
Vegetable gel, the new way to stem internal bleeding
Gel containing the plant okra can help stop internal bleeding, suggest researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada, who used an extract from the vegetable successfully to seal wounds in the hearts and livers of dogs and rabbits.
Bleeding from a 1cm wound stopped in one minute, whereas substantial bleeding continued for 20 minutes in wounds not treated with the gel, reports the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.
Researchers said that the gel forms a barrier over the wound and triggers the clotting process.
Human trials are expected to take place in three to five years.
Currently, organ injuries are stitched but this can lead to inflammation — or a gel made from the protein fibrin is used. However, this is expensive and derived from animals.
Shape-changing skin patch boosts weakened muscles
Muscle wastage could be treated using a shape-changing skin patch that exercises muscles, reports the journal Nature Materials.
The adhesive patch contains a spring made from nitinol, a metal that changes shape at certain temperatures.
When the patch — which was developed at Harvard University — is placed on the skin, the spring constantly changes shape, contracting and expanding the muscle as it would during exercise.
The device, known as Magenta, successfully strengthened wasted muscles when tested on animals. The developers are hoping that the patch could help with muscle loss associated with ageing and certain conditions, including multiple sclerosis.
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