TEENAGERS whose lives are blighted by acne could have a cheap and effective cure within five years, according to Scottish scientists.
Researchers at the University of Dundee believe that they can produce a treatment for the common skin problem that you don’t “put on your face every day”.
The solution comes after they led an investigation into the behaviour of sebaceous glands – microscopic glands in the skin that secrete an oily matter, called sebum.
Acne is thought to relate to an increased production of sebum due to hormonal factors.
Professor Maurice van Steensel, a professor of genetic dermatology at the university, says the new solution to acne will be “cheap” and won’t have to be used for long.
Professor Steensel has been collaborating with the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore to pinpoint the causes of acne, and the next step will be to test drugs at Dundee’s £8m National Phenotypic Screening Centre, which opened in 2015.
Phenotypic screening involves analysing the traits of a cell or organism for features, such as height or skin appearance, that can change over time.
Acne is the world’s most common skin condition, affecting 80% of 11-30 year-olds, and causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that’s hot or painful to touch.
Professor Steensel said: “The future is pretty bright for acne sufferers. I’m confident that we will come up with something within the next five years.
“Our goal is to produce something cheap that people could put on their faces that would keep them from getting acne in the first place or, if they already have acne, to treat it properly.
“It will be something that you don’t have to put on your face every day and not have to use for very long.
“Already the model we have can quantify how a sebaceous gland will behave, its size, cell number and productivity. We can put numbers to all of that. If the drugs do what I’m expecting them to do we might have something new for acne.”
Research from 2012 showed that acne sufferers experienced a higher level of emotional and social impairment, in terms of the feelings of physical discomfort and anger.
But Professor Steensel says that because acne does not pose a threat to human life, it has often been ignored by researchers.
He added: “There is pretty good data out there that says that acne will interfere in your ability to enter into any type of meaningful relationship and can even prevent you from gaining employment. It’s serious.
“The problem is that because it doesn’t kill you it isn’t on the radar of major funding organisations. As a result there hasn’t been any real innovation in treatments since 1975 and sufferers have been left out in the cold.
“The data shows that people with acne do not have more bacteria than people without acne. However, there is some anecdotal evidence that diet can play a role. It is important that people know there are options.”
Currently, acne is treated with topical antibiotics and creams, but these often have to be continued for several months to reach full effectiveness.
Isotretinoin, one of the most popular drugs currently used in acne treatment, can cause anemia, and can also cause dry lips and skin.
It can also cause birth defects if taken by women during pregnancy or even a short time before conception.