Can gold dust help with acne?

British experts have used pieces of gold so small that four million would fit on the end of a strand of hair to kill cancer cells.

British experts have used pieces of gold so small that four million would fit on the end of a strand of hair to kill cancer cells.

Published Apr 30, 2014


London - A sprinkling oif gold dust could help beat acne for good. Scientists have developed a treatment that involves coating acne spots with tiny gold nanoparticles, each no bigger than a speck of dust.

As the gold is applied, pulses of light are fired at the skin using a handheld probe to make the pores open up and let the gold dust penetrate deep inside.

A laser beam is then fired at the spots. Though this is harmless to the skin, it heats the gold particles to the point where they destroy some or all of the sebaceous glands.

These glands produce sebum, an oily substance that helps lubricate the skin but which, in excess, can lead to spots.

New research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Denver, Colorado, shows the technique is safe and effective.

Acne can affect adults, but is most common in adolescence - eight out of ten youngsters develop it at some point in their teens. Hormonal changes during puberty cause the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce increased amounts of sebum.

Together with dead skin cells, it blocks hair follicles, trapping bacteria - a type called P. acnes - that usually live harmlessly on the skin.

Starved of their normal supply of oxygen, these bacteria attack healthy skin cells in an attempt to access the oxygen that is circulating in the blood.

The immune system senses this as an attack and dispatches white blood cells to try to ward off the bacteria.

The result is the inflammation and swelling that leads to an angry-looking spot.

Treatment ranges from creams and gels for mild acne to powerful antibiotics to kill bacteria in the skin, and retinoid drugs such as Roaccutane that help shrink the sebaceous glands. The new technique could be an alternative for those patients with severe acne that fails to respond to conventional treatments.

In a study at Harvard Medical School, 23 volunteers were given the gold dust treatment in three sessions once a fortnight.

Meanwhile, a control group were given an over-the-counter face wash containing salicylic acid, a common treatment that unplugs the pores by softening the outer layer of the skin.

After 12 weeks, skin inflammation in the gold dust group had dropped by 34 per cent, compared with only 16 per cent in the face wash group.

Gold is widely used in medicine because, unlike many foreign materials, it does not get rejected or attacked by the body due to a remarkable ability to bypass the immune system.

In order to have the new treatment, the patient has an emulsion applied to the acne that contains millions of the tiny gold particles.

A probe is then held against the skin to fire pulses of light at the pores. The vibrations caused by the pulses make the pores open up, allowing the gold to getinside.

After a few minutes and with no need for any anaesthetic, a near infra-red laser is fired at the spots for a few seconds.

Near infra-red light is the kind used in some modern saunas.

The light passes through tissue and blood, but is instantly absorbed by the gold.

As it heats up, it ‘cooks’ the inside of the sebaceous gland so that it stops producing most or any of its sebum.

During the Harvard gold experiments, volunteers reported mild to moderate pain during the laser procedure and slight reddening of the skin, which died down after an hour. It is not clear whether the treatment has to be repeated or if one course of gold therapy isenough.

Dr Tony Chu, a consultant dermatologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, said the gold therapy appeared to work, but expressed concerns about the long-term effects of destroying the sebaceous glands.

‘As we get older, our skin dries out. The question is will this treatment accelerate that process and give people with acne dry and irritable skin later in life?’- Daily Mail

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