Acne-treating nanotechnology shows promise on pig skin

Acne is one of the world’s most common skin conditions, making the lives of many people, including adolescents, particularly miserable. Treatments often have nasty side effects, and can promote the dangers of antibiotic resistance.

An Australian-based team of researchers has developed a potential treatment for some types of acne – using nanotechnology.

“Acne has got various causes and factors, and it’s very important to understand that we need to know why we are having acne,” says Fatima Abid, a PhD student at the University of South Australia, and lead author on a paper describing the research, published in Nanoscale.

Age, diet and hormones are all common reasons for acne, but another is bacteria in the skin.

“Current treatments are used in combination – it could be two different types of drug with an antibiotic,” says Abid.

But antibiotics can be risky because they contribute to antibiotic resistance. Abid and colleagues have made a topical treatment that works on acne bacteria, but shouldn’t trigger antibiotic resistance in the same way.

“We firstly discovered the activity against acne bacteria, and secondly, we transformed that into nanoparticles to allow it to target the acne prone sites on the skin,” says Abid.

Their treatment revolves around a drug called Narasin.

“It’s used for treating poultry infections, but its effect against acne has never been tested before,” says Abid.

“It works in a different way to how the existing antibiotics work, which is how we can treat the bacteria and avoid this problem of resistance.”

The researchers encased Narasin in a polymer to make tiny particles, each a few dozen nanometres in size – smaller than wavelengths of light.

So far, the researchers have tested their treatment on pig skin. They’re hoping for funding to take it to people.

“We are actually looking to take it to clinical trials where we can test it on humans, and hopefully see its application in the next few years in the market,” says Abid.

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