A novel ultra-light suction device for mechanical characterization of skin

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Abstract

Suction experiments have been extensively applied for skin characterization. In these tests the deformation behavior of superficial tissue layers determines the elevation of the skin surface observed when a predefined negative (suction) pressure history is applied. The ability of such measurements to differentiate between skin conditions is limited by the variability of the elevation response observed in repeated experiments. The scatter was shown to be associated with the force exerted by the observer when holding the instrument against the skin. We have developed a novel suction device and a measurement procedure aiming at a tighter control of mechanical boundary conditions during the experiments. The new device weighs only 3.5 g and thus allows to minimize the force applied on the skin during the test. In this way, it is possible to reliably characterize the mechanical response of skin, also in case of low values of suction pressure and deformation. The influence of the contact force is analyzed through experiments on skin and synthetic materials, and rationalized based on corresponding finite element calculations. A comparative study, involving measurements on four body locations in two subjects by three observers, showed the good performance of the new procedure, specific advantages, and limitations with respect to the Cutometer®, i.e. the suction device most widely applied for skin characterization. As a byproduct of the present investigation, a correction procedure is proposed for the Cutometer measurements, which allows to partially compensate for the influence of the contact force. The characteristics of the new suction method are discussed in view of future applications for diagnostic purposes.

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Müller, B., Elrod, J., Pensalfini, M., Hopf, R., Distler, O., Schiestl, C., & Mazza, E. (2018). A novel ultra-light suction device for mechanical characterization of skin. PLoS ONE, 13(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201440

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