Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical and General Engineering


Lily Laiho


Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common malignant tumor, representing more than a third of all malignant tumors combined and the incidence is increasing every year. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the most dominant factor contributing to tumor initiation and progression. The condition is most prevalent in populations with lighter skin and older age. Current pharmaceutical molecular research targets the inhibition of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), a receptor which is commonly over-expressed or dysregulated in skin malignancies. This study evaluates the content and location of the damage marker p21 within keratinocytes that were incubated in sphingomyelin (SM) and later exposed to UV. Confocal microscopy and automated image processing provided the tools to assess large populations of keratinocytes in the effort to accurately identify the photoprotective qualities of sphingomyelin. Classification of individual cells into subpopulations yielded results suggesting SM may be involved in the inhibition of EGFR, and could potentially be a more naturally derived treatment.