Every Pore on Your Face Is a Walled Garden

Your skin is home to a lot of different types ofbacteria, and the ways they contribute to healthy skin are still largely unknown. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, researchers found that each of the 16 human volunteers had their own world. Each of the pores contained a single type of C.Acnes.

The most abundantbacteria on skin is C.Acnes. A professor at M.I.T. and an author of the new paper said that it was not clear if its link to the skin disease was clear. If biologists want to understand the relationship between your face's inhabitants and its health, it will be important to understand how the strains are distributed across your skin.

Dr. Lieberman and her colleagues used commercially available nose strips and a comedone extractor to collect their samples. They smeared the samples from within the dishes. They rubbed toothpicks on the participants' forehead, cheeks, and backs, which picked upbacteria that lived on the skin's surface rather than in the pores. Thebacteria were allowed to grow and then their genes were identified.

The researchers were surprised that each person had a different variety of C.Acnes in their skin. The volunteers' forehead and left cheek were different from their neighbors', for example, because there was no clear pattern in the pores.

Thebacteria within each pore were essentially the same as the data showed.

The lead author of the study said that there was a lot of diversity over one square centimeter of your face. There is a lack of diversity within a single one of your pores.

The scientists think that each pore has descendants of a single individual. Dr. Lieberman said that pores have oil-secreting glands at the bottom. If a cell can get down there, it will grow until it fills the pore with its own cells.

This would explain why strains that don't grow very quickly can't compete with faster strains. They are living side by side in their walled gardens.

Scientists think that the gardens are not very old. The founding cells in the pores are thought to have taken up residence a year before.

What happened to the organisms that lived there? The researchers don't know if they were destroyed by the immune system, fell prey to viruses or were pulled out by a nose strip.

Dr. Lieberman said the finding has implications for other research. The study uncovered a lot of complexity, but taking a simple sample of someone's skin wouldn't show it. As scientists consider the possibility of manipulating our microbiomes to help treat disease, the patterns uncovered in this study imply the need for information about the location and arrangement of microbes, not just their identities. Should doctors want to replace someone's current skin inhabitants with others, they may need to clean out their pores first.

Is it possible that another person on our faces plays a role in how each pore'sbacteria comes and goes?

Dr. Lieberman said that there are mites on our faces. The role they play in the maintenance of the gardens of C. acnes is not yet known.