By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times  

Ancient Egyptians were vexed by it, using sulfur to dry it out. Shakespeare wrote of its "bubukles, and whelks, and knobs, and flames o' fire."

Today, acne plagues us still. Doctors can cure some cancers and transplant vital organs like hearts, but they still have trouble getting rid of the pimples and splotches that plague 85% of us at some time in our lives — usually, when we're teenagers and particularly sensitive about the way we look.

But new research hints that there's hope for zapping zits in the future, thanks to advances in genetic research.
Using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing techniques to evaluate the bacteria lurking in the pores of 101 study volunteers' noses, scientists discovered a particular strain of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that may be able to defend against other versions of P. acnes that pack a bigger breakout-causing punch.

As best as dermatologists can tell, zits occur when bacteria that reside in human skin, including P. acnes, feed on oils in the pores and prompt an immune response that results in red, sometimes pus-filled bumps. But the study subjects who had the newly discovered bacterial strain weren't suffering from whiteheads or blackheads, according to a report published Thursday in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Someday, the realization that "not all P. acnes are created equal" might help dermatologists devise treatments that more precisely target bad strains while allowing beneficial ones to thrive, said Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute who conducted the study with colleagues from UCLA and Washington University in St. Louis.


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