U.K.'s DSTL Develops Antimicrobial Peptide Formulation for Skin Care, Wound Healing


NETHER WALLOP, U.K.—The U.K.'s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) developed peptide-in-cream advance that provides natural antimicrobial action without chemicals—a new generation of skin care and wound healing creams that could potentially work in the same way as a body's natural defenses. The creams based on the peptide technology work like skin healing creams, killing bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus, but without using chemical antiseptics.

The researchers at Dstl discovered a way of delivering the antimicrobial properties of proteins that are normally found in the sub-dermal layers, in the form of creams for application on the skin surface. The research is available from Ploughshare Innovations, licensor of intellectual property developed at Dstl.

The potential of the technology, which is a spin-off from research conducted by Dstl into treatment of infections, could lead to the development of an exciting new class of skin care and treatment products. Its potential uses are wide ranging: skin creams for health workers exposed to pathogens; skin repair and anti-aging creams; over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments for first-aid response; and treatment of rashes, scrapes, wounds, acne, and burn or fungal infections. The researchers also believe the cream may have uses in treating certain specific and difficult skin-related conditions such as diabetic ulcers. 

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are natural proteins that form part of the body's immune system defenses against pathogens, providing powerful germ killing and wound healing capabilities that can combat even multidrug-resistant microorganisms. There is considerable clinical interest in harnessing these properties for health care use, but one problem has been finding a medium that is able to deliver the peptides while maintaining their biological activity.

Dstl researchers have found a cream formulation that allows AMPs to be delivered in their active form to the skin surface. They have demonstrated the efficacy of the cream by using it to deliver an example AMP - LL37,which plays an important role in the first line of defense against infection at sites of skin inflammation and wounds. Other candidate AMPs—magainin-2-amide and uperin—are also delivered by the cream.