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Breakthrough research in chronic acne treatment?

February 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Acne affects many of us at some point in our lives, yet doctors haven't made a lot of progress in creating new ways to treat it. Some people may have chronic acne problems, some people never do. Now UCLA researchers are optimistic their new discovery about who gets acne could lead to an effective anti-acne tool.

Acne is more than just a teenage thing. For some people it never goes away.

UCLA researchers wanted to find out why some people get pimples and others don't. They studied 50 patients and for the first time examined acne at the molecular level.

"We looked down inside pores. We sequenced every bit of DNA from those microbes, and so we compared acne patients and healthy patients," said Dr. Noah Craft, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Principal investigator Dr. Craft says that in the oily depths of pores of people with severe acne, they made a unique discovery: two strains of bacteria called Propionibacterium or P. acnes.

"And what we found were bad strains of bacteria in the acne patients, and good strains of bacteria in the healthy patients," said Craft.

The "good" strain is rarely found in clear-skinned people.

A third P. acnes strain may protect the skin the way that live bacteria in yogurt protect the gut from harmful bacteria. The next step, scientists say, is to develop a probiotic cream that may prevent pimples.

"This is a great lead to possible new therapies, so you could either take the good strains that protect people and put that into a cream and use it like a probiotic, or you could develop therapies that just kill these bad strains, and then maybe replace those strains later with these healthy strains," said Craft.

Learning the true cause of breakouts would be money-saving news for American consumers who spend $1.4 billion on acne treatments each year.

Researchers say people with acne could soon have medications that kill the bad bacteria strains, but preserve the good ones and possibly a simple skin test to predict who would develop aggressive acne in the future.

Dr. Craft say because they're able to study the molecular level of bacteria that live on our bodies, this study can help in the research of other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.


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