Coupling skin bacteria-laden hydrogel and electronics, researchers have introduced the ABLE platform, a bioelectronics system that can deliver management and adaptive treatment of skin inflammation. They test this approach in a mouse model of psoriasis.


Source: CDC/ Segrid McAllister

Scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image of two Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria.

The findings, published in Science, demonstrate the potential for clinical application of bioelectronics devices that promote drug-free therapeutic effects through a living hydrogel interface.

“This amalgamation of living and synthetic components is a notable advance toward medical devices that enable real-time digital updates and adaptive treatment of nonrevolving inflammation,” writes Peder Olofsson in a related Perspective.

Traditional bioelectronics face integration challenges with biological tissues due to mechanical, chemical, and biological incompatibilities. Hydrogels have been used to bridge these gaps, but they often lack the cellular functions needed for effective tissue modulation.

Inspired by biofilms

Jiuyun Shi and colleagues address this with the ABLE platform, which integrates a hydrogel matrix containing Staphylococcus epidermidis – a common skin bacterium – and an electronic array to regulate skin inflammation and promote healing.

Inspired by natural biofilms that support bacterial survival, the ABLE platform leverages S. epidermidis for its ability to modulate skin cell activity. To evaluate the approach, Shi et al. applied ABLE devices to a mouse model of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory disease often treated using small-molecule drugs that have potential systemic side effects.

In a series of preclinical evaluations, the authors show that the ABLE platform could monitor and record skin electrical impedance, body temperature, and humidity. Shi et al. also demonstrate the device’s microbial-driven intervention of psoriasis by mitigating the expression of key psoriasis-related genes, targeting early innate immune activation and curbing subsequent inflammation.