June 2021


The system has been used to reveal early changes in skin blood microcirculation and skin structure of patients with diabetes. Image courtesy of the University of Oulu.

A multidisciplinary research team has introduced a diagnostic approach capable of evaluating the skin complications of diabetes. This portable optical device allows non-contact detection of possible skin complications of diabetes at an early stage, as well as the ability to perform broad population screening, explained research team member and adjunct professor Alexander Bykov, PhD, from the University of Oulu, Finland. Additionally, this method is non-invasive, is low cost, and has high resolution.

The device uses hyperspectral imaging, a technique that unites conventional imaging and spectroscopy, which was initially developed as a complex satellite or aircraft-based system. The device can remotely measure spatial maps of blood oxygen level and blood content and assess the changes in collagen structure of the skin. To achieve this, the hyperspectral imaging and polarization sensing technologies are combined and accompanied with the advanced algorithms of signal processing based on the artificial neural networks.

The system has been used to reveal early changes in skin blood microcirculation and skin structure of patients with diabetes. To test the process, the dorsal surface of patients’ feet were imaged. It was observed that the  patients with diabetes had increased skin blood content and, at the same time, reduced oxygen level in comparison to a control group of healthy volunteers. In addition, the group with diabetes had an increased polarization index that is attributed to the changes in skin collagen structure. Thus, the results of the feasibility studies, as well as the actual tests on patients with diabetes and healthy volunteers, show the ability of the developed approach to differentiate diabetic and control groups.

Timely detection of skin disorders caused by diabetes at the early stage is crucial. Metabolic alterations at diabetes lead to the obstruction of large arteries but also impairs circulation in small vessels of the lower extremities. These changes cause complications, with diabetic foot ulcers being the major one. If left untreated, the diabetic ulcers may become infected and develop deep tissue necrosis, which may require amputation.

“Our system is potentially capable to perform monitoring of wound healing and treatment processes, including diabetic foot ulcers, skin burns, or postoperative complications associated with inadequate tissue oxygenation,” said Bykov.

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