Complement system influences skin microbiome, reveals study
Verity Stockdale - Sep 2013
A new study has shown the role of the immune system in monitoring and maintaining bacterial populations on the skin.
New research has shown that the immune system plays a crucial role in influencing the microbiome - defined as the total number of microbes, their genetic elements and environmental interactions - of the skin.
The work by scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania - published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - showed that it is in fact controlled by a part of the immune system known as the complement.
This complement system is one that works alongside the cells and capabilities of the immune system - for example, the antibodies and phagocytes and their mode of action - to clear pathogens from the body.
Interestingly, however, the research also showed that the microbiome of the skin itself also has an effect on the complement system in turn, as well as how the skin is monitored, maintained and protected by the immune system.
This is because with the complement running checks and maintenance on the microbes on our skin, this actually helps it to stay healthy and play a crucial role in certain conditions that may be implicated in levels of certain bacteria that live and thrive in this particular environment.
Elizabeth Grice, assistant professor of Dermatology at the institution, and a team of scientists had done previous work which investigated the great number of bacteria living on the skin. However, until now, there had not been much research done into the role of the immune system in influencing these bacterial populations.
"There's a balance between the microbiome and the immune system," commented Dr Grice.
"Decreased microbial diversity has been associated with skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema. Complement may in part be responsible for maintaining that diversity and keeping our skin healthy."
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