Scientists Attempt to Fight Acne With Skin Bacteria Engineered to Deliver Treatment Interview with:
Nastassia Knödlseder PhD (She/Her)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS)
Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona What is the background for this study?

Response: Cutibacterium acnes is the most abundant commensal of the human skin. It inhabits the pilosebaceous units of the hair follicles where it feeds from sebum. This niche environment is of great interest since it is located deep inside the dermis close to interesting dermatological targets. What are the main findings?

Response:  In this study we demonstrated the successful genetic engineering of this bacteria and therefore turned C. acnes into a synbio chassis where we can equip it with enhanced capabilities. In this case we focused on developing a potential acne treatment where the smart microbe can produce, secrete, and deliver the therapeutic molecule neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) to the skin of mice. This approach can be useful to overcome several side effects of other acne treatments like isotretinoin and also protect skin homeostasis by avoiding the use of antibiotics. Does.Cutibacterium acnes differ from Corynebacterium?

Response:  Both Cutibacterium and Corynebacterium are gram positive bacterial species but what they differ is their location on the human skin. C. acnes is mainly found in sebaceous rich areas like the face, chest and back whereas Corynebacterium is found predominantly in areas with higher humidity such as the axillary vault, toes and popliteal fossa. Is NGAL found in nature?

Response:  Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) belongs to the lipocalin family and is involved in innate immunity. NGAL may be produced by several cell types in response to injuries for example. In the case of Isotretinoin treatment, patients showed increased levels of NGAL present in sebaceous glands whereas NGAL might act as a mediator of the apoptotic effect of isotretinoin and therefore ameliorate the symptoms of acne. Would you tell us about the ongoing research of the European Project ‘SkinDev’?

Response:  The SkiDev Project is a consortium which involves several international labs and is funded by the European Innovation Council. The aim of this collaborative project, which involves development of 3D skin models, mathematical modeling and genetic engineering, is to create a microbiome-based therapy for treating atopic dermatitis.

Disclosures:  This research is supported by the Office of Naval Research (award N62909-18-1-2155), INNOValora (INNOV21-09-1; SynFlora) given by Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Indústria del Coneixement of the Catalan government (AGAUR; IdC 2019 PROD 00057) and SKINDEV ‘Skin microbial devices’ by European Innovation Council (101098826).


Knödlseder, N., Fábrega, MJ., Santos-Moreno, J. et al. Delivery of a sebum modulator by an engineered skin microbe in mice. Nat Biotechnol (2024).

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