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Spotty Skin
22 April 2015

Spotty Skin

They may look alien beings, but these are actually computer models of two human volunteers – albeit probably quite smelly ones. After three days without soap or a shower, the coloured spots on the body parts on the left show the variety of bacteria living on the skin. Red spots show skin areas with many different bacteria, while cooler rainbow colours indicate less variety. Surprisingly, the variety of bacteria only partially matches with the chemical makeup of the skin’s surface (the different patterns of spots on the right), suggesting other factors, like environment and lifestyle, also have major effects on our skin. These 'skin maps' also reveal different skin patterns between the volunteers (compare the hands on the top row to the hands below) hinting at a bright, spotty future for this technique in personalised medicine, analysing our skin’s individual geography and predicting the effects of harmful chemicals.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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