We could all learn something from acne. Acne is always on time, especially to first dates and job interviews. Acne is confident; it never hides in the shadows, it plants itself squarely between your eyebrows or right on the tip of your chin, demanding your attention and respect. Acne never shies away from conflict; it fights your scrubs and creams and lotions until, broke and exhausted, they beat a hasty retreat. But acne may have finally met its match. Researchers at the University of California - San Diego are currently testing a vaccine that could potentially cure acne.
Part of the challenge in developing a cure for acne has been that scientists still don’t fully understand the underlying cause, and its very structure presents unique complications.
“Acne is caused, in part, by P. acnes bacteria that are with you your whole life, and we couldn’t create a vaccine for the bacteria because, in some ways, P. acnes are good for you,” the project’s lead researcher, Eric C. Huang, explained to Allure. “But we found an antibody to a toxic protein that P. acnes bacteria secrete on skin — the protein is associated with the inflammation that leads to acne.”
(I’ll give you a second to recover from the use of the word “secrete” — worse than “moist”, yes or no?)
Are you OK? Great. Essentially, Dr. Huang’s team is working to combat the acne-causing effects of the bacteria without destroying the bacteria themselves, ensuring that we keep the benefits of P. acne without having to put up with painful, unsightly breakouts.
Although acne is often dismissed as an awkward phase of puberty, like sprouting body hair or the irresistible urge to rub up against the corner of tables, in reality it’s a problem that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. According to the National Health Service in the UK, about 80 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 30 suffer from acne, and 50 million Americans are diagnosed with the condition every year. Women are more likely than men to suffer from adult-onset acne, because of the hormone-fluctuations around our periods, pregnancy, and contraceptive medicines (good thing women aren’t held up to criminally unrealistic ideals of beauty! Oh, wait), and suffering from acne has been found to have profound psychological repercussions, such as poor body-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation.
Unfortunately, we're still a few years from the glowing, unblemished skin of our dreams. The vaccine has worked on skin biopsies, but there's still more testing to be done before it hits the market.
"The next step is testing it on patients in clinical trials," said Dr. Huang. "The first phase of those trials, which could take one to two years, will be under way soon."