Kristen Kelly named chair of UCI Department of Dermatology

Dr. Michael Stamos, dean of UCI School of Medicine, announced today that Kristen M. Kelly, MD, is the new official chair of the Department of Dermatology. Kelly has been serving as interim chair since June. She is professor of dermatology and surgery at the UCI School of Medicine, and works clinically at UCI Health Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic and UCI Health Gottschalk Medical Plaza. Her appointment became official September 6.

Kelly’s clinical and research specialties include vascular birthmarks, photodynamic therapy and light based imaging. She replaces Christopher B. Zachary, MD, MBBS, FRCP, who stepped down from the position after serving three, five-year terms as chair of the Department of Dermatology.

In 2006, one of Zachary’s first decisions was to appoint Kristen M. Kelly, MD, as residency program director, and within six months, the department was given full accreditation by ACGME.

Kelly is a board-certified dermatologist with more than 25 years of experience using lasers to treat vascular birthmarks, scars and other dermatologic conditions. She is at the forefront of research in the treatment of vascular skin conditions, and contributes to the development and implementation of the latest energy based technologies, techniques and treatments in dermatology.

Kelly has contributed to the work at the world-renowned UCI Health Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic for over 20 years. She is also past president and board member of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery and has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on the treatment of vascular lesions and light based treatments and diagnostics in dermatology.

Kelly received her medical degree from UCLA, and completed an internship in internal medicine from St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach. She completed her residency in dermatology at UCI.

Read more about Kristen Kelly on the Institute website.

N95 masks may lead to greater adverse skin reactions

By Kate Burba,

There were greater changes in erythema, acne and roughness with the use of N95 masks compared with fabric and paper masks, according to a presentation at the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery annual meeting.

“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers and the general public are required to wear face masks for the protection of others and themselves,” Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska, MD, PhD, of UC Irvine, and colleagues wrote. “Current literature has reported an increase in facial skin temperature, acne flare, pruritus, discomfort and various other adverse skin reactions.”

In a prospective cohort, single-arm study, 21 participants wore a fabric, paper or N95 mask for 6 hours. High-resolution 3D imaging was used to obtain facial image analysis before and after wear to evaluate erythema, acne, roughness and rhytides. Additionally, participants were surveyed on facial comparison before and after mask use.

Subjectively, irritation, redness, acne and oiliness increased with all three mask types. Fabric masks led to an improvement in dryness, itching and skin texture.

Objectively, rhytide depth significantly increased around the chin with N95 masks vs. paper masks (P = .0379). With all three mask types, roughness, acne and erythema worsened, with the greatest changes for N95 masks.

Mesinkovska and colleagues wrote the changes in adverse skin reactions after N95 mask use were likely due to greater facial pressure and skin occlusion.

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The Real Deal on Collagen

Can popping a pill or eating foods with collagen improve your skin, hair, nails, or joints?

By Sally Wadyka, Consumer Reports

Smoother skin, shinier hair, stronger nails, healthier joints, and more lean muscle mass—these are just a few of the benefits proponents claim collagen powders, pills, and foods can deliver.

Plenty of people are buying into the idea. Collagen is promoted as an anti-aging compound, as well as a beauty and performance enhancer, says Karen Formanski, an analyst with market research firm Mintel, making it appealing not just to middle-aged consumers but also to younger ones. According to projections by Nutrition Business Journal, collagen supplement sales in the U.S. will reach $298 million this year—up from $73 million in 2015.

Although collagen supplements have been around for quite a while, collagen has more recently popped up as an ingredient in foods. “The category of functional foods and drinks with added collagen has really exploded in the past couple of years,” Formanski says. “We see it as an offshoot of the overall trend of foods and drinks with added protein.” Energy bars, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee creamers, and popcorn are just a few of the foods that tout collagen on their labels.

But is eating more collagen really the quickest route to looking and feeling younger? Here’s what we know.

What Role Does Collagen Play in the Body?

Collagen is a type of protein. The word collagen derives from the Greek word kolla, which means glue. And true to its definition, collagen really is like an adhesive that holds many of the body’s tissues together. Skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, and cartilage—what are commonly known as connective tissue—are made up of collagen, says Keith Baar, PhD, professor of molecular exercise physiology at the University of California, Davis. When your body makes more collagen, these tissues are healthier, thicker, and spongier, he says, so they’re better able to support and protect your joints.

Where a lack of collagen may be most noticeable is in the skin. “Collagen—along with elastin—is what supports and sustains the dermis [the middle layer of skin],” says Maritza Perez, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York City’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and member of the Skin of Color Society board of directors.

As you age, your body becomes less efficient at making collagen, and getting too much ultraviolet light from the sun accelerates the natural decline. “Sun exposure leads to collagen breakdown and results in less new collagen being produced,” Perez says.

In people with fairer skin, collagen breakdown—evidenced by wrinkles and sagging or crepey skin—becomes visible around age 50, but in some people with darker skin (who have more natural protection against UV rays), it may happen a decade later.

How Does the Body Make Collagen?

All proteins are made up of tiny molecules called amino acids. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into its individual amino acids. It then uses those amino acids, along with amino acids it can produce on its own, to make new proteins.“Amino acids are like building blocks, and the body puts some of them together in a specific pattern to form collagen,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. The three amino acids most prevalent in the formation of collagen are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

Although collagen is found naturally in animal foods, your body can still make it if you don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs. “As long as you eat a variety of plant proteins—such as legumes, soy, and quinoa—you will get all the essential amino acids your body needs to build collagen,” Wright says.

In addition to protein, your body also needs vitamin C, zinc, and copper to help it form collagen. “Vitamin C is especially important to regulate the synthesis of collagen,” Wright says. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli. You can get copper and zinc from nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Does Eating More Collagen Build Your Collagen Reserves?

There’s no doubt that having ample collagen in your body is important. But the question remains as to whether taking supplements or eating foods that contain collagen translates directly to more collagen in your body. All protein you consume, collagen included, is processed by your body in the same way.

“Whether you ingest a collagen supplement or a steak, the body recognizes them as protein and breaks them down into amino acids in the digestive system,” Perez says. “There’s no guarantee that when you eat collagen, those amino acids will wind up in the skin [or ligaments] and produce collagen.”

Supplement proponents argue that in order for your body to make more collagen, it needs more of the specific amino acids (namely glycine and proline) the body uses to build collagen. How do you get more of those amino acids? By consuming more collagen. Many supplements and collagen-enhanced foods use hydrolyzed collagen (also called collagen peptides).

“There is some evidence the body can absorb these and use them to rebuild tissue,” says Donald K. Layman, PhD, professor emeritus in the food science and human nutrition department at the University of Illinois in Urbana. “Collagen also contains unique levels of glycine, an amino acid that may stimulate growth hormone, improving collagen synthesis.”

But even if eating collagen directly does lead to more collagen in your body, you don’t need special collagen foods or supplements to get it. Collagen is found in meat, poultry, fish, egg whites, and gelatin, as well as in stock or bone broth. The latter two are made from simmering animal bones for several hours, which leads to the collagen in the bones being released into the liquid.

It’s not really clear how much collagen you get from foods that contain it. For example, Purely Elizabeth Vanilla Pecan Collagen Protein Oats and Pact Glow With It Snack Bites have 10 grams of protein per serving. But in addition to collagen, protein-containing foods—such as nuts and seeds (in the oats) and egg white powder and pea protein (in the snack bites)—are on the ingredients list.

Does Collagen Really Do All the Things It’s Claimed to Do?

“Currently, we’ve got this huge gap between what protein science tells us and what consumers who take collagen have been saying for years—back to ancient times in Asia,” Layman says. “There’s an amazing amount of subjective evidence saying it’s great, but there’s not a lot of science to prove it.”

There have been small studies looking at the effect of supplemental collagen on ligaments and other connective tissue that have shown some promise. A placebo-controlled study of 20 runners with Achilles tendon injuries found that those who took 2.5 grams of collagen twice daily had greater improvement in Achilles pain at the three-month mark and were able to return to running sooner than those taking a placebo. (This study was financially supported by a manufacturer of collagen supplements.) And another study of just eight people found that consuming a vitamin-C enriched collagen supplement, followed by 6 minutes of jump roping, led to increased collagen synthesis in ligaments. “Exercise is what helps deliver the amino acids into the ligaments,” says Baar at UC Davis.

As for skin benefits, a 2019 review of 11 studies on collagen supplementation published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that doses ranging from 2.5 to 10 grams per day did increase skin elasticity and hydration.

Still, the research is preliminary, and even studies that hint at positive results from ingesting collagen can’t conclusively prove cause and effect. “There is evidence it is absorbed, and that there is an increase in certain amino acids, but no direct evidence that taking a collagen supplement increases collagen in the skin,” says Natasha Mesinkovska, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the review study.

Are Collagen Supplements Safe?

Collagen supplements—as well as the collagen being sprinkled into various food products—are usually derived from the skin, hide, tendons, bones, cartilage, or other connective tissues of cows, pigs, chicken, or fish. Collagen claimed to be vegan is made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria, but there is little evidence that it would have the same potential benefits as animal-derived collagen.

As is the case with all dietary supplements, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t verify that collagen supplements contain what they say they do or determine whether they’re contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or pesticides before they’re sold. Because heavy metals and toxins can collect in animal bones, it’s possible that supplements could be a source of compounds such as arsenic or lead.

For example, a recent analysis of 28 collagen supplements by the Clean Label Project found that 64 percent had detectable levels of arsenic, about one-third tested positive for lead, and 17 percent had cadmium. (Some research has found small amounts of lead and cadmium in bone broths, too.) Although, for the most part, these levels were low, heavy metals accumulate in the body over time, which is one reason experts say there’s no safe intake level for heavy metals.

That said, most studies have not found any serious adverse effects from collagen supplementation (although most involved relatively short-term use). Yet until there’s more conclusive evidence in favor of supplements or collagen-enhanced foods, the best solution may be to focus on eating a healthy diet that supplies adequate amounts of protein, and limiting sun exposure. “Right now, Baar says, “the business component of collagen is further along than the science component.”

Read full article in Consumer Reports.

Natasha Mesinkovska and colleagues featured as American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Inc. Journal’s October Editor’s Choice

Combining Deep Learning With Optical Coherence Tomography Imaging to Determine Scalp Hair and Follicle Counts

Hair plays a substantial role in defining one’s identity, representing age, social status, and even wisdom. Effluvium refers to a pathophysiological process that leads to either reversible or permanent hair loss. Not surprisingly, alopecia patients often encounter great amounts of psychological and social morbidity directly related to their illness. These patients’ grief and frustration have, in part, motivated the development of a wide range of hair loss treatment products; however, techniques to determine treatment efficacy are still lacking.  Current methods for monitoring hair loss are invasive and or biased in interpretation.

In this study, researchers used optical coherence tomography, or OCT.  OCT is a non‐invasive light‐based imaging technique that uses the interference properties of skin tissue and infrared light to achieve high‐resolution cross‐section images that can be evaluated in multiple dimensions, and has the added benefit of not requiring any hair colorization or shaving, allowing for a traceless procedure.  The relatively high‐resolution images generated by OCT make it a useful tool for evaluation and diagnosis for many skin conditions.

The purpose of this research was to construct and evaluate a machine‐learning algorithm that could use data obtained from OCT images to accurately count hairs, hair‐bearing follicles, and non‐hair‐bearing follicles.  The process automatically returns all counts within seconds of completing the OCT scan of a patch of the scalp and with an accuracy that is within the discrepancy range of human raters.

This research suggests that this approach is well‐positioned to become the standard for non‐invasive evaluation of hair growth treatment progress in patients, saving significant amounts of time and effort compared with manual evaluation.

Read full publication.

Startups & Innovations – Financing

By Jessie Yount, Orange County Business Journal

Cactus Medical LLC, an Irvine-based medical device maker, received a $1 million Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation.

Cactus Medical is developing a device to detect fluid in the ear to improve the diagnosis for ear infections in children, as well as prevent the over-prescription of antibiotics due to misdiagnosis.

The new funds will be used to complete device development and safety work for submission to the FDA.

Cactus Medical paused its clinical work earlier this year, according to Chief Executive Samir Shreim, and used the time to create a better, more cost-effective design to provide to the end-user: pediatricians in primary care and emergency room settings.

When it is safe to resume clinical work, Shreim said the company expects to enroll at least 90 children in a six to nine-month trial at UCI Medical Center and La Veta Surgery Center in Orange.

The recent award brings the firm’s total funds to nearly $1.5 million, with support from the National Institutes of Health and the West Coast Consortium for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics, an FDA-sponsored accelerator based out of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Read full article in the Orange County Business Journal.

How to Cover a Sick Old Man

By Ben Smith, The New York Times
Photo credit: Anna Moneymaker, The New York Times

The president is hospitalized and reporters are fighting for basic facts. What should elderly leaders — many of America’s top politicians are over 80 — reveal about their health?

When John Bresnahan was starting out as a reporter in the mid-1990s, he approached Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had run for president in 1948 as a segregationist and was still shuffling through the Capitol. Senator Thurmond, born in 1902, gave no indication that he’d understood Mr. Bresnahan’s question and responded with a non sequitur.

The young reporter saw his older colleagues shaking their heads and snickering. The kid had expected the elderly senator to be able to carry on a conversation! They didn’t report on Senator Thurmond’s infirmity — that wasn’t how things were done — but they all knew about it.

These days, Mr. Bresnahan is the congressional bureau chief for Politico. A Navy veteran with the demeanor of a guy you’ve dragged out of a dive bar in the eighth inning of the Yankees game, he has become Capitol Hill’s grim reaper, a rare reporter with the stomach to print some obvious truths: that some top lawmakers aren’t all there.

In 2017, Mr. Bresnahan and his colleague Anna Palmer wrote that the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate’s appropriations committee, Thad Cochran, was “frail and disoriented,” a story that sped his retirement. Last month, Mr. Bresnahan and Marianne LeVine reported that fellow Democrats were worried whether Dianne Feinstein was up to leading her side of the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings because she gets “confused by reporters’ questions, or will offer different answers to the same question depending on where or when she’s asked.”

This kind of reporting is impolite. It’s also totally obvious, and a natural feature of America’s recent slide toward gerontocracy. On Capitol Hill, everyone “knows this stuff,” Mr. Bresnahan said. “I just am the one to write it.”

I was thinking of Mr. Bresnahan as I watched reporters arrayed at Walter Reed military hospital on Sunday facing yet another moment of crisis for the news media, one even more basic than many of the hard challenges of the Trump era. The White House press corps is trying to perform a fundamental job of journalism — delivering simple facts about President Trump’s condition — in the face of Mr. Trump’s years of casual fabrication and his doctors’ clumsy evasions and contradictions. They’re covering the biggest policy failure of his administration in the most literal sense imaginable.

And yet they’re also doing something obviously uncomfortable. It’s hard not to feel some human revulsion for the sight of healthy, TV-ready young journalists braying for the vital signs of a sick old man. But there is no question that this prying is in the urgent public interest, and the White House press corps is working with admirable aggression and openness. We need to know who is in charge of the government, and to understand the outcome of President Trump’s long evasion of the coronavirus crisis as Americans begin to vote.

By refusing to speak honestly about basic facts, the White House is really “annihilating the press’s role,” said Elizabeth Drew, a former New Yorker Washington correspondent who covered President Ronald Reagan’s shooting in 1981 and his staff’s success at playing down the grave risk to his life.

Physical decline is likely to be a major feature of the next few years of American politics, at least. The current line of succession, after Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, features Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is 80, and the Senate president pro tempore, Charles Grassley, 87, who also runs the Senate Finance Committee. Ms. Pelosi’s two most powerful deputies in the House, James Clyburn and Steny Hoyer, are both 80 or older. Over in the Senate, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee is 85 and coasting to re-election. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee is 86. Joe Biden, who turns 78 next month, is nearly a year younger than the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is also seeking re-election in November.

This concentration of power in the hands of the old is an American phenomenon, Derek Thompson recently wrote in The Atlantic, noting that our leaders are getting older as European leaders get younger.

“If government of the elderly, by the elderly, and for the elderly will not perish from the Earth, the rest of us might suffer instead,” he lamented.

But it also means that journalists must get past the taboos and be frank about the normal process of aging, and must emulate Mr. Bresnahan’s stomach for blunt truths. Typically, whispers about age and health have remained on the margins of the political conversation, often driven by the right-wing aggregator Matt Drudge, whose visceral grasp of news has always included obsessions with age and health. In 2007, Mr. Drudge briefly capsized the presidential campaign with news of a new spot on John McCain’s head, for instance. His site is consumed, to the dismay of Mr. Trump’s supporters, with the president’s illness. (One of Drudge’s 18 headlines about Mr. Trump’s condition on Sunday morning: “Blind mystic predicted it!”)

Among the people scrambling this weekend at American newspapers are obituary writers, as major outlets assigned top reporters to update Mr. Trump’s obituary — Peter Baker at The New York Times, Marc Fisher at The Washington Post and Mark Z. Barabak at The Los Angeles Times, people at each paper told me. But the easiest solution to this media quandary is for citizens to elect leaders of working age. A friend recently told me sadly how nice it had been to see a national politician, Kamala Harris, jog down a few stairs.

But for the next few years, at least, our leaders’ age and health will remain big news. We need a reporting culture that’s ready to handle the public decline of this generation of leaders, as long as they insist on declining in public. Searching questions about everything from sleep to cognition shouldn’t be off limits.

“It will help if reporters are medically knowledgeable, and ask the right questions, e.g. blood pressure, heart rhythm, sleep disorders,” Dr. Mark Fisher, a professor of neurology and political science at the University of California, Irvine, told me on Sunday. “The more specific and precise questions reporters ask, the better. A robust fund of knowledge by the reporter is a great advantage.”

When politicians won’t share honest results, health experts’ long-range diagnoses should be treated as news. The whispers by reporters and lawmakers’ aides about feeling as if they work in a nursing home should find their way onto the record. And the most powerful people in the country should learn from Mr. Trump’s disastrous example that if you lie consistently about your health, nobody will believe you in a crisis.

None of this comes easily.

“Reporters are human beings and we cover these people,” Mr. Bresnahan told me. “You have respect for who the person was. It’s difficult.”

Does UV Light Actually Disinfect and Kill Viruses?

By Shannon Bauer

Before you start waving a handheld wand over every nook and cranny in your home, find out what experts have to say about UV light’s disinfection abilities, including whether or not it can kill coronavirus.

After months of frantic hand washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing, it seems that the coronavirus has dug its claws in for the long haul in the U.S. And since the few parts of this scary experience you can control are your own actions and environment, it’s no wonder that you — and practically everyone else — have become cleaning-obsessed. If you didn’t stock up on Clorox and disinfectant wipes back in March, you’ve likely become a pro at navigating Google to find answers to questions such as “can steam kill viruses?” or “is vinegar a disinfectant?” Your missions down the research rabbit hole might’ve even led you to other novel ways of killing germs: namely, ultraviolet (UV) light.

UV light has been used for decades (yes, decades!) to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as that which causes tuberculosis, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As for its ability to kill COVID-19 germs? Well, that’s not so well-established. Keep reading to find out the expert-backed truth about UV light, including whether or not it can actually prevent coronavirus transmission and what to know about the UV light products (i.e. lamps, wands, etc.) you’ve seen all over social media.

But first, what is UV light?

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that’s transmitted in waves or particles at varying wavelengths and frequencies, which make up the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, says Jim Malley, Ph.D., a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire. The most common type of UV radiation? The sun, which produces three different types of rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC, according to the FDA. Most people are familiar with UVA and UVB rays because they’re to blame for sunburns and skin cancer. (Related: Ultraviolet Radiation Causes Skin Damage — Even When You’re Indoors)

UVC rays, on the other hand, never actually make it to the Earth’s surface (the ozone layer blocks ’em), so the only UVC light humans are exposed to is artificial, according to the FDA. Still, it’s pretty damn impressive; UVC, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy of all the UV radiation, is a known disinfectant for air, water, and nonporous surfaces. So, when talking about UV light disinfection, the focus is on UVC, says Malley. Here’s why: when emitted at certain wavelengths and for specific amounts of time, UVC light can damage the genetic material — DNA or RNA — in bacteria and viruses, inhibiting their ability to replicate and, in turn, causing their normal cellular functions to break down, explains Chris Olson, microbiologist and program manager of Infection Prevention and Emergency Preparedness at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. (Note: While UVC rays from artificial sources can also pose risks including burns of the eye and skin — similar to UVA and UVB rays — the FDA upholds that these injuries “usually resolve within a week” and that the chance of developing skin cancer “is very low.”)

In order for UV light disinfection to be effective, however, several critical factors must be controlled. First, the rays need to be at the correct wavelengths for the target virus. While this usually depends on the specific organism, anywhere between 200-300 nm is “considered germicidal” with peak effectiveness at 260 nm, says Malley. They also need to be at the proper dose — UV intensity multiplied by the amount of contact time, he explains. “The proper UV dose typically needed is very broad, ranging between 2 and 200 mJ/cm2 depending upon the specific conditions, the objects being disinfected, and the desired level of disinfection.”

It’s also essential that the area is free of anything that could interfere with the UVC light getting to the target, says Malley. “We refer to UV disinfection as a line-of-sight technology, so if anything blocks the UV light including dirt, stains, anything casting shadows then those ‘shaded or protected’ areas will not be disinfected.”

If that sounds a bit complex, that’s because it is: “UV disinfection is not simple; it’s not one size fits all,” emphasizes Malley. And that’s just one reason why experts and research are still unsure exactly how effective, if at all, it can be against the coronavirus. (See also: How to Keep Your Home Clean and Healthy If You’re Self-Quarantined Because of Coronavirus)

Can UV light disinfection be used against COVID-19?

UVC has a track record of being very effective against SARS-CoV-1 and MERS, which are close relatives of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Several studies, including reports cited by the FDA, have found that UVC light may have the same effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, but many have not been extensively peer-reviewed. Plus, there’s limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the FDA. Meaning more research is needed before anyone can officially — and safely — recommend UVC light as a trusted method for killing coronavirus.

That being said, UV lamps have been and continue to be widely used as a means of sterilization within, for example, the healthcare system. One such reason? Research has found that UVC rays can cut transmission of major superbugs (such as staph) by 30 percent. Many (if not most) hospitals use a UVC-emitting robot that’s about the size of a dorm room refrigerator to sterilize entire rooms, says Chris Barty, a physicist and distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. Once people leave the room, the device gets to work emitting UV rays, self-adjusting to the size of the room and variables (i.e. shadows, hard-to-reach places) to administer the light for as long as it deems necessary. This could 4-5 minutes for smaller rooms such as bathrooms or 15-25 minutes for larger rooms, according to Tru-D, one type of this device. (FWIW, this is done in tandem with manual cleaning using EPA-approved disinfectants.)

Some medical facilities also use UVC cabinets with doors to disinfect smaller items such as iPads, phones, and stethoscopes. Others have actually installed UVC devices in their air ducts to disinfect recirculated air, says Olson — and, given the fact that COVID-19 spreads primarily through aerosol particles, this set-up makes sense. However, these medical-grade devices are not intended for individual use; not only are they prohibitively expensive, costing upward of $100k, but they also require proper training for effective operation, adds Malley.

But if you’ve spent ample time researching COVID-19 disinfectants, you know that there are at-home UV gadgets and gizmos hitting the market at warp speed right now, all of which purport sanitizing potential from the comfort of your home. (Related: The 9 Best Natural Cleaning Products, According to Experts)

Should you buy UV light disinfection products?

“Most home UV light disinfection devices that we have examined and tested [through our research at the University of New Hampshire] do not achieve the levels of germ-killing that they claim in their advertisements,” says Malley. “Most are under-powered, poorly designed, and might claim to kill 99.9 percent of germs, but when we test them they often achieve less than a 50 percent kill of germs.” (Related: 12 Places Germs Like to Grow That You Probably Need to Clean RN)

Barty agrees, saying that the devices do in fact emit UVC, but “not enough to really do anything in the amount of time claimed.” Remember, for UV  light to really kill germs, it needs to be shining for a certain period of time and at a certain wavelength — and, when it comes to effectively killing COVID-19, both of these measurements are still TBD, according to the FDA.

While experts are unsure of the effectiveness of UV disinfection devices against coronavirus, especially for at-home use, there’s no denying that, pre-pandemic, UVC light had been shown (and even used) to kill other pathogens. So, if you want to give, say, a UV lamp a try, it’s quite possible that it’ll help slow the spread of other germs hiding in your home. A few things to keep in mind before you buy:

Mercury is a no-no. “Hospitals often use mercury vapor-based lamps because they can make a lot of UVC light and disinfect in a relatively short time,” says Barty. But, ICYDK, mercury is toxic. So, these types of UV lamps require extra caution during cleaning and disposal, according to the FDA. What’s more, mercury lamps also produce UVA and UVB, which can be dangerous for your skin. Look for mercury-free devices, such as Casetify’s UV sanitizer (Buy It, $120 $100, or those that are labeled “excimer-based,” meaning they use a different method (sans-mercury) to deliver UV light.

Pay attention to wavelength. Not all UVC products are created equal — especially when it comes to wavelengths. As mentioned earlier, the UVC wavelength can impact a device’s effectiveness at inactivating a virus (and thus killing it). It may also impact the health and safety risks associated with using the device, leaving you with the challenge of finding a UV light disinfection device that’s powerful enough to kill pathogens without presenting too much of a health risk. So what is the magic number? Anywhere between 240-280 nm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That being said, a 2017 study found that wavelengths ranging from 207-222 nm can also be effective and safe (although, not as easy to come by, according to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection). TL;DR — if it gives you peace of mind or comfort to kill even a few germs on your phone, go for gadgets that emit, at most, 280 nm.

Consider your surface. UVC light is most effective on hard, non-porous objects, according to the FDA. And tends to be ineffective on surfaces with bumps or ridges, as these make it hard for the UV light to reach all the places where the virus might reside, explains Barty. So, disinfecting a phone or desktop screen might be more productive than, say, your rug. And if you really want to wave around a UV light sanitizing wand (Buy It, $119, as if it’s a lightsaber, your best bet is to do so over, for example, your kitchen countertop (think: smooth, nonporous, germy). 

Choose products that close. A wand-like UV device isn’t your best bet, says Malley. “Living tissues (humans, pets, plants) should not be routinely exposed to UVC light unless it’s in a carefully controlled setting with well-trained and experienced medical professionals,” he explains. That’s because UVC radiation can potentially cause eye injuries (such as photophotokeratitis, essentially a sunburned eye) and skins burns, according to the FDA. So instead exposed light products like a wand or lamp, opt for “enclosed devices” that come with “safety features (automatic shut off switches, etc.) the eliminate the potential to expose living tissues to stray UVC light,” says Malley. One good option: “A container for your phone, especially if [your phone is] left in there for a long time (while sleeping),” such as  PhoneSoap’s Smartphone UV Sanitizer (Buy It, $80,

Don’t look into the light. Since the long-term effect of UVC on humans is unknown, it’s important to be extremely cautious while using a device. Avoid continued contact with the skin and steer clear of staring straight at the illumination, as direct exposure to UVC radiation may cause painful eye injuries or burn-like skin reactions, according to the FDA. But, ICYMI earlier, the UV disinfection devices you can buy off the ‘gram or Amazon are, in Malley’s words, “underpowered” and come with automatic shut-off features, limiting risks. Still, better to be careful, considering we don’t fully understand the risks. (Related: Could Blue Light from Screen Time Be Damaging Your Skin?)

Bottom line: “Look for a product with a well prepared and thorough user’s manual, clear specifications of what the UV device delivers for dose, and some evidence of independent third-party testing to confirm the performance claims being made by the product,” suggests Malley.

And until there’s more research and concrete findings that UVC light can in fact kill COVID-19, it’s likely best to just stick to cleaning on the reg with CDC-approved products, stay diligent with social distancing, and, please wear that mask.

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Chen, Wong Win NIH Grant to Characterize Mucosal Health

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

UC Irvine biomedical engineering professor Zhongping Chen and otolaryngologist/facial surgeon Dr. Brian Wong recently won a $2.3 million, four-year R01 award from the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop a technology that could help doctors treat sinus and nasal ailments with more precise information. The two, who have collaborated for nearly 20 years, are creating an innovative in vivo imaging system they call a phase-resolved spectrally encoded endoscope (PR-SEE).

Approximately 50 million Americans each year suffer from painful sinus and allergic nasal upper respiratory ailments. Known medically as chronic rhinosinusitis and allergic rhinitis, the resulting headaches, stuffy/runny noses, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing are responsible for health care expenditures of more than $35 billion a year, along with 3.5 million missed work days. “It’s a quality of life issue,” says Wong, who has a joint appointment in the Samueli School’s biomedical engineering department. “You’re probably not going to die from it; you’re just going to be miserable.”

Doctors are limited in their ability to treat these patients, relying mostly on subjective information gleaned from the patients themselves. “Right now, the response to therapy is entirely based on patient-reported outcomes,” says Wong, who adds that it’s difficult to develop appropriate therapies with these “semi-quantitative responses.”

The PR-SEE will employ two distinct imaging techniques that will overcome current limitations on in vivo cilia imaging. (Cilia are the tiny, hairlike structures on airway cell surfaces that sweep in a rhythmic pattern to transport mucus.) The first, optical coherence tomography (OCT), uses two scanning mirrors to provide information from deep within tissue; the second is spectrally encoded interferometry, a method that uses one mirror, providing faster imaging speed, but which cannot achieve deep measurements like OCT. Used together, the two techniques can give medical professionals quantitative information they have not had access to. “This has never been done in vivo before,” Chen says.

The device will measure ciliary beat frequency (CBF) – the speed at which the cilia sweep. Along with other factors, the CBF determines the efficiency of mucus transport, providing a strong indicator of upper airway health.

The device also will assess amplitude and propagation of the mucosal metachronal waves. “CBF is only one of the many factors that dictate the ability of cilia to transport mucus,” explains Chen. “It is also important to study the sweeping pattern (the amplitude) and how well each cilium coordinates with each other (the metachronal waves).

“These quantitative factors – speed/frequency, amplitude, metachronal waves – will provide a more comprehensive understanding of how airway cilia work, and will go a long way toward determining upper airway health,” he says.

In order to obtain functional parameters, Chen and Wong will test their device first on a rabbit nasal airway model, then on anaesthetized patients undergoing nasal surgeries. Eventually, they plan to develop stabilization techniques to help keep non-anaesthetized patients from moving in order to translate the research into a device that can be used in a doctor’s office.

Rhinosinusitis alone currently accounts for more antibiotic prescriptions than any other diagnosis in ambulatory settings, and in more severe cases, results in 600,000-plus sinonasal operations annually.

“Last time I checked, there were over 400 medications approved by the FDA for use in treating the nose. This additional information will help in identifying proper therapies and in determining whether those therapies are working,” Wong says. “We need a rigorous means to measure the response to pharmacological therapy and/or surgery by probing mucosal physiology at a fundamental level.”

Adds Chen: “This imaging modality establishes an objective means to gauge sinus health and the response to treatment, which in turn will aid scientists, clinicians and industry professional to better develop drugs, devices and other therapies.”

Read full article on UCI Samueli School of Engineering website.

Chris Barty is Laser Focused on Laser World Domination

By Jackie Connor, UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Main Graphic: Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Headline Design: Elisa Le, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

UCI’s Distinguished Professor aims to advance the age-old X-ray machine and has uncovered a laser technology that could potentially take the teeth out of COVID-19’s grip.

When Chris Barty focuses his mind on something, it is with laser precision. The UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy learned from an early age he was drawn to lasers after watching the first episode of the animated sci-fi adventure series “Jonny Quest.”

“Episode one of ‘Jonny Quest’ is the laser episode,” said Barty. “In the episode, [the villains] are burning ships in the Sargasso Sea with a laser… and the episode starts explaining what a laser is.”

Post-“Jonny Quest,” Barty received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, physics and chemical engineering at North Carolina State University and later received his master’s degree and a doctorate in applied physics at Stanford University.

Though Barty calls out “Jonny Quest” for his original and perhaps subconscious interest in lasers, Barty’s adventures in the wide world of laser technology are anything but science fiction.

I was like a kid in a candy store filled with lasers because that's what makes me excited. Lasers, Lasers, Nothing but Lasers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Graphic: Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

Lasers, Lasers, Nothing but Lasers
After teaching at Stanford for four years, Barty moved to San Diego to run a privately funded research organization where he focused on intense lasers and X-rays created by intense lasers.

In 2000, Barty left San Diego to work as the chief scientific officer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL)’s laser division.

“I was like a kid in a candy store,” said Barty. “I was doing laser weapons work. I was doing lasers for fusion energy, for clean energy, lasers for medicine, and lasers for nuclear materials detection. The joke about Livermore is that Lawrence Livermore National Lab isn’t what LLNL stands for … it stands for ‘lasers, lasers, nothing but lasers.’”

Barty’s division primarily focused on national security, including the use of a laser-Compton system – a laser-based X-ray machine – to recognize Uranium 235 from Uranium 238, two very similar nuclear materials with a major difference.

“Uranium 238 is considered ballast but 235 is Hiroshima,” said Barty. “The big worry is that somebody could ship 235 into a port and detonate it and every port in the world could shut down causing a trillion dollar impact on the word economy overnight.”

This mission provided his team at LLNL about $70 million in funding to develop the detection technology in addition to another $150 million at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) to develop an accelerator technology.

Thirteen of the patents resulting from the LLNL activities were licensed by Lumitron Technologies and are the foundation of the company.

UC Irvine distinguished professor of physics and astronomy Chris Barty works with lasers inside Lumitron Technologies' Laser Lab located in University Research Park in Irvine, California. They are wearing masks and goggles for protection and are using instruments to help create more lasers.

Chris Barty, Ph.D., UCI distinguished professor of Physics and Astronomy, work with lasers in Lumitron Technologies’ Laser Lab located in University Research Park in Irvine. Photo: Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

Lumitron Technologies
In 2016, Lumitron Technologies was formed as a company that develops and commercializes unique X-ray systems. The company is based on $220 million worth of R&D from LLNL and SLAC.

With co-founder and Executive Chairman Maurie Stang, Barty, co-founder, executive director and chief technology officer, decided to set up shop in Irvine.

In January, Lumitron completed a $34 million funding round, with the help of Roth Capital Partners in Newport Beach, in addition to $11.6 million from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. With the funding, Lumitron aims to build its first commercial X-ray systems.

The company is developing a HyperVIEW platform that will provide high-resolution X-ray images, which improves image resolution up to 1,000 times compared to conventional X-rays while, at the same time, imparts a significantly less harmful dose of radiation to the patient – all from a device the size of a modern CT machine.

“The impact of Lumitron’s breakthrough will touch a wide array of human endeavors, both in imaging of unsurpassed resolution and new therapies, which will leverage our ability to image and treat simultaneously at a near-cellular level,” said Stang.

HYPERview is an advanced x-ray platform that provides a clearer, high-resolution image and is not as harmful as conventional x-ray machines.

Chart: Rachel Noble, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

As Barty describes, since the platform’s technology can see down to a cellular level, the potential to detect and treat diseases like cancer can be done in ways that no one has been able to do before. The HyperVIEW platform can detect and treat cancer without introducing radioactive materials to the body.

Although commonly used in the medical and research sectors, the technology is also applicable for 3D printing, mining, security, semiconductor manufacturing and nondestructive material evaluation.

In the summer of 2017, Barty became the senior faculty member and first hire of UCI’s Convergence Optical Science Initiative (COSI). COSI lab space is located at the Cove @ UCI, UCI Beall Applied Innovation’s headquarters, and is dedicated to studying laser activity – a space he describes as “the intersection of physical science, engineering, biology, medicine and industry all around something photonic.”

The Convergence Optical Science Initiative is the intersection of physical science, medicine, industry, biology and engineering all around something photonic.

Chart: Rachel Noble, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

“I have a lot of crazy ideas, all the time. That’s what I do,” said Barty. “The academic side is about things that might be two or three or four generations down the road, for how you might either make the machine better or use the machine in a different way.”

With Barty’s appointments in the School of Physical SciencesSchool of Medicine and the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, he recruits doctorate students to the lab to study the applications of his technologies.

Most of what happens in the COSI Lab relates to laser activity, like investigating new applications of common laser technologies.

Lasers and COVID-19
Most recently, Barty and his research team at UCI are developing a new technique in the fight against COVID-19 using diode lasers found in a Blu-ray players. The technology can be used as a way to rapidly sterilize surfaces and/or clean the air.

A diode laser can be found in Blu-ray players that play DVDs and can also be used to help sterilize surfaces, clean the air and possibly denature COVID-19. This diode laser is a brown color and sits on a lab table.

Pictured is a diode laser found in a Blu-ray player. These small but mighty pieces can be used to sterilize surfaces, clean the air and possibly denature COVID-19. Photo: Steve Zylius

It would be less expensive and safer than mercury discharge lamps used in hospitals, according to Barty, since the mercury lamps emit UVA and UVB light. The technology, which is created by using the laser in the Blu-ray player, produces a shorter wavelength – UVC radiation that can potentially denature COVID-19.

“There is medical literature that suggests that short-wavelength UVC is not that bad for you because the dead skin cells that are on your body are enough to absorb the UVC. The teardrop on your eye is enough to absorb very short wavelength UVC,” said Barty. “It doesn’t really damage your skin, your living skin or living tissue in the same way that UVA and UVB does. In practice, it’s not widely used, because it’s expensive.”

To create UVC light, it takes $100,000 worth of equipment, according to Barty. However, once Barty and his team put a nonlinear crystal in front of the Blu-ray player’s diode laser, it can create UVC light. The team only needs to spend $50 for the Blu-ray laser diode part.

“The semiconductor industry that made the Blu-ray diode lasers has perfected the art of doing that and it’s now become cheap,” said Barty. “They’ve built the fab lines and everything. You’re winning, because somebody else paid the money to do it.”

This graphic displays how a diode laser found in a Blu-ray DVD player can potentially denature COVID-19 using a nonlinear crystal that creates UVC light. This UC Irvine technology can be found in the COSI Lab at UCI Beall Applied Innovation.

Graphic: Rachel Noble, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

Barty and his team are currently setting up to investigate the modified laser’s effects on COVID-19. If effective against COVID-19, this technology could be utilized within a building’s air conditioning duct or utilized within light fixtures to constantly clean circulating air.

“You could imagine having something where a mask actually has one of these in it,” said Barty. “Every time you take a breath, you’re getting air that has been cleaned, or every time you exhale, all that stuff that you exhale is being cleaned.”

Laser-Focused Future
Between Lumitron and creating new technologies from the COSI Lab, Barty has one thing in mind for the future of his company: World domination … with lasers, of course.

Barty is currently focused on bringing down the cost of the technology so hospitals can easily become equipped with Lumitron’s advanced machines.

“I want a Lumitron machine in every hospital,” said Barty. “I want 10 machines in every hospital. My mother died of breast cancer. I’ve got plenty of people in the company who’ve had people that have been impacted by cancer. If we can do anything to solve that, I’m all for it.”

Learn more about Lumitron.

Read full article in UCI Beall Applied Innovation “Rising Tide.”