Skin Metagenomics: About Life on the Stratum Corneum

We have asked the Stratum Corneum VIII attendees to share with us their topics of interest. In this contribution, Dr Neelam Muizzuddin, Director of Clinical Research at Estee Lauder, US, discusses ‘Skin Megagenomics: About Life on the Stratum Corneum’.

Skin, the human body’s largest organ is colonized by a diverse milieu of microorganisms, most of which are harmless or even beneficial to their host. Colonization is driven by the ecology of the skin surface, which is highly variable depending on topographical location, endogenous host factors and exogenous environmental factors. Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples.
A microbiome is “the ecological community” of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. This term was originally coined by Joshua Lederberg, who argued the importance of microorganisms inhabiting the human body in health and disease. The human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. Modern DNA sequencing techniques have enabled researchers to find the majority of these microbes, since the majority of them cannot be cultured in a lab using current techniques.
The human skin microbiome could provide insight into the impact that human colonizing bacteria can have on health. The approach provides access to the functions carried out by dominant skin colonizing taxa, including Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus and Propionibacterium, revealing their specific capabilities to interact with and exploit compounds from the human skin. These functions, which clearly illustrate the unique life style of the skin microbial communities, stand as invaluable investigation targets for understanding and potentially modifying bacterial interactions with the human host with the objective of increasing health and well being.