Anyone who suffers from acne knows the physical and psychological effects that come with the relentless skin condition. While there is currently no cure for acne, there are a number of treatments that help. Unfortunately, these don't always work for everyone and can come with some nasty side effects. However, researchers think they are one step closer to developing a vaccination for acne. Experts from the University of California in San Diego have published the results of a study that claims to have found a way to attack acne within the body itself, rather than using harsh products on the skin.
Acne is caused by a bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes (or P. acnes), that lives on the skin. In some people, this bacteria releases a toxin which causes inflammation and those painful red bumps. Scientists managed to find a way to stop this process using proteins from the immune system — known as antibodies.
The study — which was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology — tested this novel form of immunotherapy on mice, finding that the influx of antibodies to the acne bacteria prevented the toxin from being released. Researchers also trialled the procedure on human skin samples with acne, resulting in reduced swelling and redness and an overall clearer complexion.
"The potential impact of our findings is huge for the hundreds of millions of individuals suffering from acne," lead author Chun-Ming Huang told ScienceDaily, adding that "current treatment options are often not effective or tolerable" for many sufferers.
While much more research will need to be carried out to actually develop a safe and effective vaccine for humans, the fact that researchers have managed to find a way to stop the bacteria wreaking havoc on the skin is a real achievement.
"This opens exciting new avenues of treating acne — including the potential to create an acne vaccine which would prevent acne altogether — which would be fantastic for acne patients in the future," dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson Dr. Anton Alexandroff told the Daily Mail.
Obviously, there's lots of excitement about a potential acne vaccine — even if it may be years away. In fact, people have been dreaming of such a scientific breakthrough for some time now.
One person, however, has voiced concerns that the might of skin care brands could block an acne-fighting vaccine from ever-seeing the light of day. "The industry for skin creams and acne treatments would far outweigh the revenue from a vaccine," he tweeted.
But aside from that particular worry, there is another downside to this rather miraculous research: It's unclear whether a vaccine to combat acne could negatively affect the skin's microbiome. (In other words, the overall health of your skin.) The study's authors are now looking to investigate whether such a thing could cause further skin issues and will orchestrate large-scale clinical trials in the next couple of years.
Until then, one can only hope that an acne vaccine really is on the horizon and not just a pipe dream.