Molecular maps reveal the bacteria lurking on skin

Molecular maps reveal the bacteria lurking on skin

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Researchers at the University of California, San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences used information collected from hundreds of skin swabs to produce three-dimensional maps of molecular and microbial variations across the body. These maps provide a baseline for future studies of the interplay between the molecules that make up our skin, the microbes that live on us, our personal hygiene routines and other environmental factors. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers swabbed 400 different body sites of two healthy adult volunteers, one male and one female, who had not bathed, shampooed or moisturized for three days. They used 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 MATLAB software to construct 3D models that illustrated the data for each sampling spot. By using that spatial information, they were able to relate tens of thousands of molecular signals to hundreds of microbial types, which led to the identification of molecular players involved in human-microbial interactions.