Could Engineered C. acnes Treat Acne?

Researchers have validated in skin cell lines and in mice an engineered strain of C. acnes that can produce and secrete a therapeutic molecule intended to treat acne symptoms.

In a study published in Nature Biotechnology researchers report that they edited the genome of C. acnes to secrete and produce NGAL protein, a known mediator of isotretinoin, to modulate sebum production in cell lines. When applied to the skin of mice, engineered bacteria engraft, live, and produce the protein. However, researchers note, mouse skin is not a suitable comparator to human skin for this application.

The international research team is led by the Translational Synthetic Biology Laboratory of the Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS) at Pompeu Fabra University and includes scientists from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (Idibell), the University of Barcelona, the Protein Technologies Facility of the Centre for Genomic Regulation, Phenocell SAS, Medizinische Hochschule Brandenburg Theodor Fontane, Lund University, and Aarhus University.

Researchers hope to validate a human skin model that will eventually support in vivo testing and ultimately therapeutic use in humans. They are also launching the European Project “SkinDev” in which scientists from the Translational Synthetic Biology lab together with its partners will engineer C. acnes to address atopic dermatitis, eczema and severe irritation, especially common among young children.