Technology Transfer Sponsored by
Acne afflicts many people around the world. Its severity differs from case to case, and while it is often associated with the teenage years, as is generally known, it can rear its ugly head at any age. A number of breakthrough drugs and topical treatments have been developed to treat acne, including over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and tea tree oil, as well as dermatologist-prescribed forms of tretinoin and tetracycline. Although these treatments can keep acne at bay, they are often accompanied by side effects and offer no long-term cure.
However, a new treatment offers hope. Chun-Ming (Eric) Huang, PhD, and his team at the University of California, San Diego, have developed what they believe to be a vaccine for acne. Their cure is based on a protein found in Propionibacterium acnes, the key acne-causing bacteria, and the team recently partnered with Sanofi Pasteur to bring the vaccine to the market.
Huang’s lab, which works on a number of vaccines for diseases such as influenza, sought to develop a vaccine for acne based on its association with bacteria. “This disease is highly associative with the skin bacteria P. acnes,” noted Huang. He furthered, “[While] other bacteria are found in the human acne condition, they are not associated with its development.”
The group first identified proteins in P. acnes in order to select a vaccine antigen. They selected sialidase, a surface protein of P. acnes that increases the susceptibility of human sebocytes to P. acnes cytotoxicity and adhesion. Mice were immunized with the sialidase to develop antibodies. When P. acnes was injected into the ears of mice, the sialidase antibodies were shown to prevent the formation of P. acnes; however, they also attacked the protective normal skin bacteria.1
The team then shifted its focus to a protein secreted by P. acnes, Christie-Atkins-Munch-Petersen (CAMP). This protein was produced by isolating the gene in P. acnes (CAMP-factor) responsible for inflammation and cytotoxicity in sebaceous cells and putting that gene into young daikon radish plants to produce a protein. When mice were given this protein, they produced antibodies to CAMP.2