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Nano-Bombs to Treat Acne?

By Vicki Mozo


Acne! No matter how relatively little they are on the skin, those tiny red bumps are enough to make a person feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and withdrawn.

Acne does heal but it heals rather slowly. And when a person is done and over with acne, the unsightly marks left on the skin silently tell a story.

Acne can be really upsetting. It does not only scar the skin but it also impairs a person's self-esteem and confidence. Thus, no matter how common acne is, individuals stricken with it cannot easily deal with it without feeling annoyed and distressed.

But what is causing acne? Is it by the kind of food you eat? Is it something genetic? Or is it through exposing the skin to dirt or pollution? These factors may encourage acne to form but they do not directly cause acne. The generally accepted mechanism of acne formation on skin is a clogged hair follicle. The hair follicle may be clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. There are individuals who are excessively producing sebum and shedding dead skin cells faster than others, thus are more prone to acne.

When the hair follicles are clogged, further excretion of sebum and shedding of dead skin cells can cause these follicles to enlarge. Enlarged follicles are favorable to the growth of normal skin bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes. Once they gain access to deeper layers of the skin they incite inflammatory reaction.

Traditionally, keeping the skin clean and free from dead skin cells and excessive sebum can help prevent or diminish acne. Topical treatments, light treatments, and antibiotics are typically prescribed to help combat acne. However, these treatments incur side effects like redness and burning.1 Moreover, Propionibacterium acnes has shown resistance to some antibiotics.2

Recently, a more advanced mechanism of treating acne is presented. Dissaya "Nu" Pornpattananangkul, a bioengineering student from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, came up with a novel way of treating acne through a nano-scale bomb filled with lauric acid. The lauric acid attaches specifically to the cells of Propionibacterium acnes and ultimately kills the bacteria.

The lauric acid can be obtained from coconut oil and delivered into the area to be treated by containing the acid within the nano-bomb (called liposome). In order to prevent these nano-bombs from fusing together, Pornpattananangkul coated them with gold nanoparticles.

Apart from preventing the nano-bombs from fusing together, the gold nanoparticles also help in locating the acne-causing bacteria on the skin based on microenvironment, such as pH.

When the nano-bombs reach the membranes of the bacteria and the gold nanoparticles drop off due to the acidic microenvironment, the lauric acid is released to fuse with the bacterial cell membrane and destroy it.

Nano-scale delivery of drugs is anticipated to improve treatments of bacterial infections on skin. However, further tests are still on the way to check its safety for human use.



1 University of California - San Diego, "Treat acne with coconut oil and nano-bombs.", 2010, April 15.
2 Dahl, M., "Super acne? Drug-resistant zits on the rise", 2009, April 4.


To cite (APA):

Mozo, Vicki (2011, March 4). Nano-Bombs to Treat Acne? Biology-Online.org. Retrieved (date), from http://www.biology-online.org/articles/nano-bombs-treat-acne.html


Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide information or individual opinion, and not to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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