Our Research

The ACA is undertaking multiple approaches to identify a cure for acne. Through discussions with experts in basic science, clinical dermatology research, pediatric medicine, pharmacology, genomics and molecular biology, nutrition and other areas, the ACA strives to obtain further clarity around the biggest unanswered questions about the etiological factors of acne.

Understanding Why Some People Develop Acne, While Others Don’t

We all have Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria on our skin, so a better understanding of the immunological response of acne is paramount. To investigate why some of us get acne and others don’t, the ACA has colleagues in the field leading a pilot clinical study focused on creating the first multiscale model of the biology of acne.

Led by experts at the Genetics and Genomics Science team at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, this study aims to improve the understanding of the complex molecular, biological and physiological processes underlying the development of acne. The study will identify novel drug targets and biomarkers for acne, using network modeling to predict patterns of response to treatment based on the unique molecular profile of acne. The modeling will build upon existing research to establish links between acne and other diseases, as well as potential causative factors for acne, including environmental or nutritional factors. The study uses human models, biopsies and blood samples to analyze mRNA expression, immune system factors, as well as patient microbiomes. With these inputs as part of an integrative network analysis, a more holistic view of the disease can be achieved.

Identifying the Key to the Existing Known Acne Cure: Oral Isotretinoin

Oral isotretinoin is the only systemic retinoid with Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of severe recalcitrant nodular acne.
Oral isotretinoin is the only systemic retinoid with Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of severe recalcitrant nodular acne.

We consulted dozens of clinical and basic science researchers, and nearly all of these experts indicated that oral isotretinoin (previously known as Accutane) is currently the most effective treatment option for moderate to severe acne. Unfortunately, due to the side effects and dispensing requirements of isotretinoin, it is not an ideal option for everyone.

Researchers have discovered that certain genes are highly expressed in the skin lesions of acne patients. Through a partnership with expert dermatologists at Penn State Milton Hersey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, we hope to identify the patterns of genes affected during the typical 20-week course of isotretinoin therapy and after treatment. The findings will help to guide the ACA and the wider acne research community to obtain a more nuanced understanding of the mechanism of action of isotretinoin. This will better inform how future treatment options can replicate the positive acne treatment impact of isotretinoin, but potentially avoid the current associated side effects and risks of the medication.

Future Research Priorities: potential non-traditional, innovative treatment approaches