Research reveals how fat cells in the skin help fight acne

“These findings could change the way we treat acne,” says Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Ima Gigli Distinguished Professor of Dermatology and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“Previously, it was thought that hair follicles were the most important factor for acne growth. In this study, we looked at the cells outside the hair follicle and found that they have a key role in controlling acne. bacteria and the growth of acne.”

The cells, called fibroblasts, are common in connective tissues throughout the body. They produce an antibacterial peptide called cathelicidin in the skin, which plays an important role in acne development, says Gallo.

The surrounding skin undergoes a process called reactive adipogenesis, in which fibroblasts transform into fat cells. Cathelicidin is also produced to help fight infections by blocking bacteria that can cause acne.

The discovery of the role of cathelicidine was surprising.

“We started our study with the desire to understand the biology of acne and specifically look at it,” said first author Alan O’Neill, PhD, project scientist at UC San. examines the role of fibroblasts, which normally provide structural support in the deeper layers of the skin. Diego School of Medicine.

What we found instead was that these cells were activated to produce large amounts of an important antibacterial substance, cathelicidin, in response to the acne-causing bacteria called Cutibacterium acnes. “

The team performed skin biopsies on acne patients who were treated for several months with retinoids, a vitamin A-derived chemical found to promote skin health.

To the surprise of the researchers, cathelicidin expression was enhanced by the drug after treatment, thus finding an additional, unknown mechanism why retinoids help in the treatment of acne.

To support these findings, the researchers studied skin lesions in mice injected with acne-causing bacteria and observed similar treatment responses in mice.

“Cathelicidin is highly expressed in biopsied acne tissue which is an interesting finding for us,” said Gallo. “Knowing this will help develop a more targeted therapy to treat acne.”

Currently, retinoid treatment focuses on controlling lipid growth in skin cells. A major side effect of these drugs is a teratogenic effect, causing birth defects in pregnant women. This limits the use of these drugs to only severe cases.

The team hopes these findings can aid in the development of a more targeted approach to acne treatment.

“This study may aid in the identification of new treatment options that specifically target fibroblasts’ ability to produce cathelicidine,” said O’Neill. “Therefore, creating an acne treatment will be more selective with less harmful side effects.”


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