Carotenoids are a family of antioxidant nutrients that are known to play an important role in human health. They appear to have protective effects against free radical damage. Carotenes and lycopene may protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation damage, whereas lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin are important for eye health. We are presently studying the carotenoid status in burn patients and preterm infants using a noninvasive technique involving Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy is a powerful laser spectroscopic technique that detects the characteristic vibrational energy levels of the carotenoids. Exposing the skin of the subject's palm to a low-power monochromatic laser light source and detecting the scattered light as a function of photon frequency accomplishes this. Carotenoids present in the skin will shift the wavelength of 473 nm (blue light) to 511 nm (green light) that is detected and converted into a measurable signal. In a clinical study of adults, the correlation of serum carotenoids and scanned skin carotenoids was high (r = .76, p < .001). However, validation of this method in infants has not been presented. The aim of this study is to validate the method of Raman spectroscopy in measuring infant skin's carotenoids with the traditional high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) method. Seventeen foreskins from healthy term circumcisions were collected and then total skin carotenoids were measured by Raman spectroscopy three times and averaged. Each foreskin was weighed and enzymatically digested, and the carotenoids were extracted and quantitated by the HPLC method of Weissenberg for total carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, and carotene. Total skin carotenoids as measured by Raman spectroscopy correlated with the HPLC measurements of total carotenoids (r = .48, p < .05), lycopene (r = .60, p < .007), lutein (r = .46, p < .05), cryptoxanthin (r = .62, p < .01), and zeaxanthin (r = 0.66, p < .01) but not with carotene (r = .33, p > .05). Skin carotenoid measurement by Raman spectroscopy is valid when compared with HPLC and may become an important and noninvasive way to measure carotenoids and antioxidant activity in infants.
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