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Welsh Universities Collaborate to Improve Treatment for Chronic Acne

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A new £70K research project is under way to develop a quick, painless, and drug-free treatment option for patients living with chronic acne.

The collaboration between world-leading innovator in nitrogen plasma technology Energist Ltd, Swansea University Medical School’s Healthcare Technology Centre (HTC), and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre (ATiC), has been established through the £24m Accelerate Wales programme, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Energist Medical Group, based in Swansea Enterprise Park, is the founding and leading global provider of nitrogen plasma technology to the medical aesthetics industry, with more than 20 years’ experience in design, manufacture and distribution of innovative aesthetic, dermatological and surgical energy-based devices.

The company’s NeoGen™ Plasma devices are non-invasive, clinically proven and cleared for treating anti-ageing cosmetic and dermatological conditions including acne scars, actinic keratosis, facial rhytides, non-facial rhytides, superficial skin lesions, seborrheic keratosis and viral papillomata.

As part of the new nine-month research project with HTC and ATiC, Energist is looking to innovate further by developing new equipment and practices for use in the treatment of chronic acne. Chronic acne has traditionally been treated through the use of drugs, which can have longer-term health effects on patients.

The HTC will undertake an in-vitro study to validate the use of the unique nitrogen plasma technology for the treatment of acne. This work will be undertaken in the Microbiology and Infectious Disease Laboratory within the Medical School.

Porcine skin samples inoculated with a common bacteria associated with the pathophysiology of acne, will be treated with Energist’s innovative nitrogen plasma technology. This research will provide evidence that the NeoGen™ Plasma device can be used to treat chronic acne conditions.

In addition to the bacterial research study, HTC will use its team’s expertise to investigate the diffusion rate of specific molecules through skin samples in response to the plasma treatment. The use of Franz cells and high-performance liquid chromatography will quantify molecules diffusion rate and demonstrate the potential advantages of using the NeoGen™ Plasma device for increased skin absorption of topical products leading to enhanced clinical outcomes.

ATiC’s role within the project are in two distinct areas – a research study into capturing treatment areas, and user experience (UX) and ergonomic evaluation.

Using its team’s expertise and the UX research laboratory, as well as mobile eye tracking and prototyping facilities, ATiC will conduct an in-depth UX study to investigate the ergonomics and controllability of the NeoGen™ Plasma device.

The work will include a study of user comfort and fatigue for clinicians during procedures, and review and capture current treatment methods to understand the issues around over and under treatment, to provide a better experience and outcome for patients.

The novel technology and practices the project aims to develop will be among the first in the world, highlighting the expertise concentrated in Swansea and positioning Wales as a leader in this field.

Simon Jones, CEO of Energist Ltd, said:

“Energist is delighted to be collaborating with Swansea University Medical School and ATiC on such a meaningful project.  Acne is estimated to affect nearly 10 per cent of the population globally and can lead to physiological and psychological complications for those suffering on a severe and prolonged basis.

“We look forward to collating scientific data that demonstrates nitrogen plasma’s anti-acne and drug-penetration enhancement efficacy, underpinning the successful treatment outcomes that a number of NeoGenTM Plasma users are already having in the field, and paving the way for Energist’s next phase in product and clinical development.”

Dr Bethan Thomas, Innovation Technologist at HTC, said:

“We are very excited to announce the commencement of this pioneering collaborative project which will investigate the effects of plasma technology on chronic acne.  It is hoped that this partnership will eventually bring about medical improvements for the care and health outcomes for many people suffering from such skin conditions.

“We have a very talented and enthusiastic team here at the HTC and we all look forward to see how the collaboration can use the research findings to assist in the progression of such an innovative product into the health market.”

Ian Williams, ATiC Senior Innovation Fellow at UWTSD, said:

“We are delighted to partner in this research, which has both commercial and health impact, bringing new products, processes, and services to Energist and to the healthcare market.

“With the facilities we have at ATiC this is going to be an exciting project to work on and I look forward to seeing how the findings will be taken forward within Energist’s research and development team.”