Our skin constitutes a formidable barrier between our body and the outside world. It prevents uncontrolled loss of water and keeps chemicals and micro-organisms out. Natural moisturizing factor (NMF) plays an important role in keeping this barrier intact. This mixture of salts and amino acid(-derivatives) constitutes about 25% of the dry weight of the stratum corneum. NMF derives to a large extent from the enzymatic breakdown of filaggrin: one of the main skin proteins.



Not everybody produces sufficient NMF to keep the skin healthy. About 10 percent of the population is born with an impaired skin barrier, caused by a filaggrin-gene mutation. This mutation results in a low NMF concentration in the skin. Many children who are born with such a mutation develop atopic dermatitis and allergies. One hypothesis is that this is caused by an increased exposure to environmental allergens.

the NMF scan

The NMF scan is a prototype of a device for quick and easy non-invasive determination of the NMF concentration in the skin. In collaboration with hospitals in Ireland, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands we are exploring several use cases:

  • Identification of newborns at increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis (AD).
  • Identification of people at risk of developing occupation-related skin conditions.
  • Stratification of AD-patients to enable personalized disease management and treatment.


In vivo Raman spectroscopy discriminates between FLG loss-of-function carriers vs wild-type in day 1-4 neonates
C. ni Chaoimh, et al.

Ann Aller Asthma Immunol; 124:500-504 (2020)

Natural moisturizing factor as a clinical marker in atopic dermatitis
A.E.M. Nouwen, et al.

Allergy; 75:188-239 (2020)

Raman Profiles of the Stratum Corneum Define 3 Filaggrin Genotype-Determined Atopic Dermatitis Endophenotypes
G.M. O'Regan, et al.

J. Allergy Clin Immunol; 236:574-580 (2010)

Natural moisturizing factor as a biomarker for filaggrin mutation status in a multi‐ethnic paediatric atopic dermatitis cohort
M.M.F. van Mierlo, et al.