DermTech, Stiefel Labs try to spot acne genes

By Mike Nagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dna, Gene

Skin cancer detection specialists DermTech have decided to turn
their hand to acne after signing an agreement with Stiefel
Laboratories to identify spot-causing genes.

Using DermTech's Epidermal Genetic Information Retrieval (EGIR) and gene expression assays, the firm will identify targets for Stiefel to develop therapeutic products for this widespread skin condition. "Acne has long been regarded as a nuisance condition but for a patient who suffers from frequent outbreaks or chronic blemishes, it is a major source of concern,"​ said George Schwartz, who is the CEO at DermTech. He explained that EGIR is a painless way of collecting RNA from the epidermis and identifying biomarkers. The eventual hope is that the two firms can identify the molecular cause of acne and then treat it. Specifically, EGIR consists of adhesives stuck to the patients skin. In the past, repeated tape stripping of human skin has been used to induce so called 'psoriatic lesions'. However, scientists could predict if and when lesions would be created every time and so the technique was of limited use. However, DermTech has been helping advance this area of science by using tape stripping to investigate some of the molecular events that cause (or are the result of) various skin diseases. The company can extract RNA from the tape for subsequent gene expression analysis using quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction techniques (qRT- PCR). It claims the RNA harvested is similar in quality to that gained from biopsies, which is another, more invasive technique used to study dermatologic conditions. Although clearly the tape will recover different skin cell populations as it sticks to the surface of the skin. In a 2004 editorial in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Brian Nickoloff of the Loyola University Medical Center, US, wrote: "While it may be premature to discard our punch biopsies or light microscopes and install microarray chips in our clinics and pathology laboratories, a day may come when we look into our microscopes and not only see cellular arrays, but also molecular profiles." "Whether we look for these molecular patterns, or whether we see molecular patterns may depend on our perspectives and imaginations, rather than limitations in the use of this amazing technological advancement." ​ When they were initially testing the product - as reported​ in the same edition of the journal - the team at Dermtech collected RNA from normal skin as well as skin treated with an irritant. They found significant changes in the expression levels of more than 1,700 genes. The same technology is being used by DermTech for a variety of dermatologic and other conditions, including melanoma, prostate cancer, psoriasis, the effects of drugs on skin at the molecular level, and aiding in the diagnosis of disease.

Related topics: Contract Manufacturing & Logistics

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