SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Researchers at UC San Diego have made a discovery that reshapes decades of conventional thinking about acne, providing a new treatment strategy for the most common skin condition in the United States.
Up to 50 million Americans suffer from acne each year. Currently, the most effective treatments for severe acne are called retinoids. This class of drugs, which is derived from vitamin A, includes Retin-A and Accutane.
Patients who use retinoids know their effect on the skin: the drugs make the skin dry and scaly.
Ever since the introduction of retinoids in 1971, dermatologists believed that the drying mechanism was the primary source of the drugs’ pimple-busting power. This is because pore-clogging bacteria that infect hair follicles and cause acne thrive on oils in the skin.
“He uses them as a source of nutrients. So if you suppress the nutrient source, you suppress the activity of the bacteria,” said Dr. Alan O’Neill, project scientist at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
But in a new paper published in Science Translational Medicine, Dr. O’Neill and colleagues at UCSD show that retinoids do something unknown: they trigger the cells surrounding hair follicles to produce a natural antibiotic. , called cathelicidin.
The researchers tested the importance of this antibiotic by administering retinoids to mice. They found that the drying action alone did not affect acne; the therapeutic power came from the production of cathelicidin.
“It completely changed the way we think about how retinoids work on acne,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chair of the department of dermatology and lead author of the paper.
Now that researchers have revealed this new mechanism, scientists can search for new acne treatments that stimulate the production of cathelicidin in these cells even more – without the serious side effects of retinoids. Dermatologists limit the use of retinoids because they carry a risk of birth defects.
“With a better understanding of the cause of this disease, this opens up a whole new area for many researchers to start thinking about different ways to treat this. So this is hopefully an inflection point in our treatment. acne,” Gallo said.
The best part is that scientists don’t have to start looking for a new drug from scratch. There are already drugs known to stimulate the production of cathelicidin in the cells surrounding the hair follicles.
“In fact, some of them are used in the clinic for completely different things, so we’re ahead of the game in terms of developing a treatment because of all the knowledge we have in this area and we didn’t even suspect they were relevant to acne,” Gallo said.