Teenagers with acne should like this concept: a nano-bomb, containing a coconut oil compound, that directly attacks the bacteria that cause acne. The new smart delivery system developed by a researcher at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering could be a boon to the more than 60 million people who suffer with this skin condition.
More than 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 suffer from acne, and 25 percent of them will experience permanent scars ranging from mild to severe. An estimated 60 million Americans have active acne and 20 percent of all adults suffer with the condition.
Yet only 11 percent of acne sufferers seek help from a physician, according to some sources. About 40 percent choose to do nothing, 20 percent go to a skin care center, and 30 percent use over-the-counter medications. One reason for the lack of enthusiasm about current treatments may be that they are associated with side effects, including burning and redness, and frequently they are not effective.
The nano-bombs containing the coconut oil compound, called lauric acid, may offer a solution, according to Dissaya Pornpattananangkul, who developed the smart delivery system. The treatment involves gold nanoparticles that are bound to the surface of lauric-acid filled nano-bombs. The gold serves several purposes: it prevents the nano-bombs from fusing together, and it helps the bombs zero in on the bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) that cause acne.
When the nano-bombs reach their target, the gold nanoparticles fall away, which allows the lauric acid to fuse with the bacterial membranes and kill the bacteria. “Precisely controlled nano-scale delivery of drugs that are applied topically to the skin could significantly improve the treatment of skin bacterial infections,” notes UC San Diego NanoEngineering professor Liangfang Zhang. Not only is this treatment more targeted, it also minimizes or avoids side effects.
Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing field that is opening doors for new treatment options in the medical arena. The coconut oil nano-bombs that target acne is an exciting innovation and one that will hopefully be tested on human subjects in the near future.