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Name and title

SkIN hydration evaluation with TeRAhertz scanning - SINATRA

Recruitment status


Chief investigator

Professor Joseph Hardwicke


University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust


Cancer Research UK and Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council


Pilot study to confirm feasibility, test recruitment, trial procedures and refine intervention delivery.

Study design

Single centre, non-randomised, pilot trial



Sample size



Medical imaging commonly involves the use of radiation, such as X-rays, that can give detailed images of internal structures of the body but can carry a small risk of tissue damage due to the radiation involved. As such, the number of X-rays and CT scans that an individual can have has to be minimised.

Recently electromagnetic radiation for imaging purposes at terahertz (THz) frequencies, the region of the spectrum between millimetre wavelengths and infrared has been developed. Terahertz spectroscopic imaging uses low power levels such that adverse effects on tissues are insignificant and is safe for in vivo imaging of humans. The terahertz region is between the radio frequency region and the optical region generally associated with lasers.

The focus of this project is to investigate THz spectroscopic imaging as a new and powerful tool for analysing skin properties, termed “THz skinometry”. The novelty in this project lies in tailoring the instrumentation and algorithms of THz scanning to accurately measure properties of human skin (e.g. hydration levels and skin thickness) in vivo. The customised noncontact and pressure-controlled contact THz probes developed will be able to do spectroscopic measurements of skin in vivo at the molecular level. This will be the first demonstration of in vivo THz imaging of skin globally and will facilitate quantitative characterisation of skin in a way that has not previously been possible and could lead to a step change in THz technology usage.

The SINATRA study is pilot study with a primary aim to explore the feasibility of the trial methodology. In addition, secondary objectives of the study will investigate if THz light is able to detect subtle differences in skin hydration and their clinical relevance. Due to the unprecedented sensitivity of THz light to skin hydration, we will also investigate if different skin types have a preferential uptake of certain emollients. This would include dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and post-operative scars. This will give us information on how to optimise the types of emollients used in future development of new moisturisers and sunscreens.

Additionally, as part of the SINATRA study, we will investigate if THz imaging is able to detect subclinical (invisible) skin cancer and enhance the diagnosis of suspected skin cancer in vivo. Skin cancer is known to produce a localised inflammatory reaction and microscopic swelling and so the changes in skin hydration may be able to be objectively measured by THz skinometry.

Planned start date


Planned duration

12 months


Tel: 02476 966197