Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, a widespread condition characterised by dry and itchy skin.
While there are treatments for atopic dermatitis available in the market, Tasmania-based biotech firm Marinova believes there is a gap in the market targeting the skin microbiome.
“Broadly, atopic dermatitis is quite a complex illness where there's a multitude of factors that contribute to it… and there's an unmet need, particularly in the skin microbiome space,” said Dr Damien Stringer, operations manager, Marinova.
The firm’s latest study investigated the topical effects of fucoidan, a bioactive compound that occurs naturally in brown seaweeds, on atopic dermatitis.
Most notably, researchers found that fucoidan significantly inhibited the adhesion of Staphylococcus aureus – a bacterium typically found on atopic dermatitis patients and known to aggravate the condition.
What really impressed the researchers was that fucoidan did not affect the presence of the ‘good bacteria’, said Stringer. “The work we’ve recently published showed that fucoidan has a really quite profound effect on the skin microbiome.”
“It inhibits the adhesion of Staphylococcus aureus, but it also doesn’t act on Staphylococcus epidermidis. So, it stops the bad bacteria from adhering to the skin cells and leaves the good ones alone, which is a great result.”
Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus is crucial, said Stringer, as it is generally associated with the ongoing presence of the disease “The ability to reduce the amount of Staphylococcus aureus that adheres to the skin has potential to reduce the clinical course of progression of the disease itself.”
Additionally, fucoidan significantly altered gene expression in an in vitro 3D model of atopic dermatitis. Genes that were beneficially affected included those typically associated with skin barrier function, wound healing processes and fluid accumulation
While fucoidan is present in brown seaweeds in general, the team utilised organic extracts from undaria pinnatifida and fucus vesiculosus.
According to Stringer, the latter was also found to have high amounts of polyphenolic antioxidants present that’s naturally present with the fucoidan, which gives it the particular extract a high antioxidant activity.
Stringer told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that the firm saw plenty of opportunities in the skin microbiome space, especially in the therapeutic area.
“The understanding of the importance of the microbiome broadly in human health has only come to the fore in the last decade. More recently, the skin microbiome is being recognised as equally important to wellness, in particular, skin diseases.
“There’s currently a lot of active interest in developing novel therapeutics that can improve the skin microbiome and that's really been the market and the space that we're looking at with our cosmetic ingredients.”
Moving forward, the company intends to continue its research into fucoidan and its effects on the skin microbiome.
“We will be looking to expand that data and make it more broadly relevant. Ultimately, looking at clinical trials potentially, but there’s a development pathway to get to that point.”