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Wearable light sources for medical and consumer healthcare

Acne is a problem which affects most people at some point in their lives. Severe acne can affect the patient’s skin and self-image. Sunlight is known to alleviate the symptoms of acne but is not always consistently available. Therefore, a light-based therapy that could be administered when needed is desirable.

Skin cancer is a more serious and growing problem which affects large populations worldwide. Whilst surgery is commonly used, an increasingly popular treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers is photodynamic therapy (PDT). In PDT, photosensitive light cream is applied to the skin and activated by a light source, causing the cancer cells to die. Traditionally, PDT light sources are large, expensive and intense lamps found only in hospitals, which limits the adoption of this technique.

Research by Professor Ifor Samuel and colleagues in the Organic Semiconductor Centre within the School has led to the development of compact wearable light sources to treat acne and non-melanoma skin cancer. The sources can be manufactured to cover large areas and are flexible, making them ideal for use as a 'light bandage' to treat skin conditions.

Variety of products from Ambicare Health Ltd.

LED based products from Ambicare Health Ltd: Ambulight PDT (left), Lustre Pro (middle) and Lustre Solo (right). Credit: Ambicare Health Ltd.

Professor Samuel along with Professor James Ferguson of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, set up Ambicare Health Ltd to commercialise this technology. Following various successful clinical trials, Ambicare began selling a range of LED-based products to treat acne and skin cancer.

This work has led to economic impact for Ambicare Health Ltd which has raised significant investment funding and sold thousands of its Ambulight and Lustre products around the world, including through Boots and on Amazon. It has also brought significant healthcare benefits to patients: users of Ambicare products report very positive results in their acne treatment, and patients treated with them for skin cancer have found it a very convenient and effective treatment.

Before and after photos of a young women with acne treatment.

Acne treated with Lustre Pure Light for 1 hour per day for 12 weeks. Credit: Jane Marsh (RGN), Skin Health Spa, London.