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Skin Defense

May 24, 2007

Your skin makes its own antibacterial defenses.


Your antibacterial skin. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If the common staph bacterium could easily get through your skin, you’d wake up every day with disgusting sores. Now new research identifies a key agent in repelling this menace. Donald Leung’s team at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver found that skin cells make a protein called human beta defensin-3 as soon as they notice harmful bacteria. The protein breaks down the bacteria’s membranes, killing them. Then the skin cells encase and digest the bacteria’s remains.

DONALD LEUNG (National Jewish Medical and Research Center):
It literally happens in minutes and is probably the reason why most normal people do not have problems with bacterial infection even though our environment is teeming with bacteria.

Leung says a deficiency in beta defensin-3 could help explain infection-prone skin. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.