Living Biomaterials to Treat Skin Dysbiosis

Project location: GERMANY, Mainz
Project start date: January 2023 - Project end date: October 2025
Project number: 2022-027
Beneficiary: Max - Planck - Gesellschaft Zur Förderung Der Wissenschaften E.v.

This research project addresses an urgent need in the treatment of skin disorders by an innovative biomaterials approach. The Researchers at the Department of Prof. Dr. Tanja Weil at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) will combine synthetic biomaterials and “living” probiotics, which offers great opportunities in healthcare, clearly moving beyond the current state of the art. We particularly explore new scientific solutions to treat different forms of skin dysbiosis and thereby address the foundations principle of "think global, act local" to the field of dermatology.  

The microbiome of the human skin represents an enormously complex ecosystem of a wide variety of microorganisms. Maintaining a healthy composition of this living shield against environmental health threats, including harmful human pathogens, requires a delicate physiological and metabolic interplay of skin cells and the skin microbiome. The prevalence of allergens, toxins and irritants such as preservatives in liquid cosmetics and detergents, increasing air and water pollution and reduced microbial biodiversity in the environment are putting additional stress on the skin microbiome. Skin diseases such as acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis can result in severe alterations in the composition and functionality of the skin microbiome. Microbiome alterations in severe injuries such as burns, chronic diabetic ulcers and skin cancer require not only additional medical care, but also special treatment options that ideally consider the constitution of the patient's natural intact skin microbiome. Using microbiota offers entirely new treatment options for skin regeneration. In ancient ethnomedicine, probiotic bacteria have already been recognized as beneficial for the treatment of wounds, but recent advances in microbiome research and medical materials science have opened new avenues for probiotic skincare that moves well beyond traditional skin probiotics such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and others. Topical probiotics are rarely associated with any systemic side effects and still retain their broad‐ spectrum antimicrobial activity. Probiotic microorganisms like Lactobacillus spp., Bifidobacterium spp., or Staphylococcus spp. can directly and indirectly improve skin health. Probiotic bacteriotherapy can have great potential in the prevention and treatment of skin diseases such as acne, eczema, and allergic inflammation or in skin hypersensitivity, UV-induced skin damage and as a wound protection by either competing with harmful microflora as well as by creating an intact protective skin barrier. The secretion of useful metabolites, the postbiotics (e.g. bacteriocins), and the reduction of pH to more acidic levels by the probiotics allow beneficial influences on skin inflammation as well as skin homeostasis facilitating wound healing. However, the introduction of new strains to the skin flora can also cause dysbiosis if these strains become dominant. Therefore, the probiotics needs to be encapsulated in stabilizing matrices that control their outgrowth. Hydrogels represent effective wound dressing scaffolds that could be designed to host these bacterial cells.

All in all, this project, which received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, addresses an important issue that can positively impact everyone with skin diseases. The Research will be conducted in Mainz, Germany, at the renowned MPI-P. The results will be published widely in order to make the knowledge about the Living Biomaterials to Treat Skin Dysbiosis accessible to as many people as possible. Moreover the project is in line with the life-long passion of Dr. Yvonne Katharina Schmucker and represents an adequate way of honoring her legacy to the foundation.

think global, act local
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