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Industrial Maths AI and Health study group – could AI help identify organisms that cause acne?

Posted on 19/03/2019

The third problem for KTN’s Industrial Maths in AI and Health event has been announced and researchers are encouraged to apply to take part

This is one of the problems that will be discussed at a three-day study group in Manchester from 26-28 June.

If you are a researcher working in a UK university who would like to work on this problem, please register here.

The organisers, KTN, alongside the Universities of Manchester, are looking for researchers to work on the following conundrum:

AI-enabled Prebiotic Discovery Platform presented by Unilever

Cosmetic conditions are a daily concern for people worldwide.  Conditions such as acne and psoriasis can have a debilitating effect on self-esteem, particularly in adolescents.  Recent investigations of the human microbiome have shown that these conditions, among others like dandruff, axillary malodour and gingivitis, correlate with a dysbiosis in human resident microbial communities.  In some instances, strong correlatory evidence is available (Dandruff – Malassezia restricta, Staphylococcus capitis) whereas in other cases an undisputed causative relationship has been established (Axillary odour – S. hominis, Acne – Cutibacterium acnes, Gingivitis- Fusobacterium nucleatum).

Traditionally personal care products, using broad spectrum antimicrobials, treat these conditions with an indiscriminate reduction of microbial load leading to a reduction in symptoms.  This approach is now regarded as excessive and efforts are underway to attempt to balance human microbial ecology for health benefits through either promotion of health associated organisms e.g. S. epidermidis or reduction of condition associated organisms through niche exclusion.

This challenge set by Unilever is to explore where Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms can be used to identify abundant and prevalent organisms associated with selected cosmetic conditions; the determination of key metabolic differences between health associated and condition associated organisms; and identification of compounds (cosmetic ingredients/natural products) that take advantage of these metabolic dependencies to promote (prebiotics) the growth of health-associated organisms such that they outcompete and reduce absolute numbers of condition-associated organisms.

In vitro/in vivoassessment of interventions will be undertaken by Unilever.  The development of a protocol/system to meet these criteria in a ‘biologist-friendly’ manner would expedite the development of novel personal care intervention strategies and products with the option to extend discovery to medical conditions such as IBS/Crohn’s disease.

If you’re a university researcher and think you could play a part in helping with this challenge, sign up for this summer’s study group.  Register here.