Researchers have developed 3D human skin maps that will provide a baseline for future studies on how molecules make up our skin, the microbes that live on us, our personal hygiene routines and other environmental factors.
The research took place at the University of California, San Diego. The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
may help further our understanding of the skin's role in human health and disease.
"This is the first study of its kind to characterize the surface distribution of skin molecules and pair that data with microbial diversity," said senior author Pieter Dorrestein, who is also a professor of pharmacology at the university.
To sample human skin nearly in its entirety, Dorrestein and team swabbed 400 different body sites of two healthy adult volunteers, one male and one female, who had not bathed, shampooed or moisturised for three days.
They used a technique called mass spectrometry to determine the molecular and chemical composition of the samples. They also sequenced microbial DNA in the samples to identify the bacterial species present and map their locations across the body. The team then used a novel software to construct 3D models that illustrated the data for each sampling spot.
Despite the three-day moratorium on personal hygiene products, the most abundant molecular features in the skin swabs still came from hygiene and beauty products, such as sunscreen.
According to the researchers, this finding suggests that 3D skin maps may be able to detect both current and past behavior, and environmental exposures. "The study can reveal many factors that help us maintain or alter the human skin ecosystem, things like personal hygiene and beauty practices, and how those variations influence our health and susceptibility to disease," Dorrestein said.