Acne is one of the most common skin disorders, affecting approximately 50 million Americans, and many more worldwide. It is truly a global disease that affects all races and genders. More than 80% of the population suffers from acne at some point in their life. The goal of this project is to investigate the relationship between acne and the microbiome, or community of microbes, residing underneath the surface of the human skin. Success in this project may lead to the development of new effective therapeutic strategies for treatment of acne.
Even though acne is such a common skin disease, its cause has yet to be defined. Many believe bacteria play a part in the development of the disease. In fact, antibiotic therapy targeting the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes has been a commonly used treatment for more than 30 years.
An initial DNA sequencing analysis of the skin microbiome has revealed that P. acnes is indeed a dominant species. In those suffering from acne, the P. acnes strains seem to be very similar to each other (likely arising from a common ancestral strain), whereas the strains in normal individuals are much more diverse. It could be that the predominant strain in individuals with acne could be more pathogenic, associating it with the disease.
One of this project’s goals is to identify these strain differences in acne patients and compare them to normal individuals. P. acnes is also thought to play a key role in eliciting an immune inflammatory response in acne patients that may be important for the progression of the disease. To understand this process better, the project also seeks to identify this host immune response in acne patients using transcriptome analysis of the patients’ skin samples and their microbiomes.
By better understanding the microbial basis of acne, this project hopes to shed light on the complexity of the human microbiome, as well as improve currently available therapies and develop preventative strategies for the disease.
-Adapted from the NIH Demonstration Project Description.