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Cool Research

Hi all,

I am starting work on a study at Mass General Hospital related to the use of aminolevulinic acid and light to cure facial acne. 5-aminolevulinic acid is a precursor to a variety of porphyrins synthesized by bacteria (heme, for instance). Interestingly, these porphyrins and bacteria accumulate preferentially in sebocytes. Porphyrins release reactive oxygen species (like singlet oxygen) when triggered by the appropriate wavelengths of light, leading to cell apoptosis. In other words, light activates the death of the sebaceous gland, and does this selectively relative to the rest of the skin on the face. Use the right photosensitizers and wavelength, adjust the irradiance and fluency, and you can destroy the sebaceous glands.

The downside of this treatment is that it has significant side effects. It hurts, for one, and it makes you look pretty hideous for a good 3 days after treatment. The great news is that it has accutane-like effects. It does the same thing accutane does - induce sebocyte apoptosis - without systemic side effects.

It will be about 4 or 5 years before anything like this hits the market, but I thought I would share that there is exciting and promising research happening in this regard. We are performing clinical studies now, and patients are extremely happy so far.

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